I hardly remember the old goat but I do remember he was not much of a "people person", especially "little" people, as in kids-- and growing up in our family-- there were lots of kids.
I remember Uncle Charlie as the guy at the end of our long dining room table at Thanksgiving that refused to talk when each was asked what he was thankful for. He was also the first to leave the table--heading straight to the kitchen, packing himself a doggie bag of leftovers with the green Tupperware he'd brought with him, then kissing my mom on the cheek and grumbling something as he left the house.
Uncle Charlie was from Mom's side of the family and she never considered not inviting him to our gatherings. She's a "there's-always-room-for-one-more-at-the-table" kind of person and her table included the uncle that I was never quite sure whether or not he was actually a blood relative.
And then one day he was gone. Dead. And in my 11 year old brain, that was the end of him.
Uncle Charlie didn't have any kids of his own and I vaguely remember Mom "handling things" when he passed away but I don't remember the details or a funeral for that matter.
Since Charlie's passing more than 40 years ago, Mom has lived in our family home, a down-sized home, and the home she shared with my late lovely step-father, Dave.
We are now in the process of moving Mom to a Senior Community and that involves hauling out years and years of "stuff" that fills a full basement, a two-car garage, a shed and their four bedroom house. There. Is. A. LOT. Of. Stuff!
Over the past few months, Mom has repeatedly told all five of her kids as well as Dave's five kids to "Take whatever you want-- Please!" She's moving to a two bedroom house and is more than ready to unload a massive accumulation of possessions.
Just before their doozie of a yard sale last month, Mom assigned me the glamorous task of cleaning out the garage-- I'm not sure if that was paybacks for my teenage years or if I just drew the short straw, but tackling the garage-- spiders and all, was a job I took very seriously.
Mom and Dave lived in this house for 20 years-- I can prove that too with the "saved" newspapers from 1991 that were stacked next to the full case of WD-40 oil, because you never know when you might have that many squeaky things that need oiled and repaired.
The garages were jammed pack with a meaningful collection of *ahem*crap*junk*useless*stuff* mementos like three artificial Christmas trees including one that's silver with the four-color rotating light to help set a festive mood. Not to be out done, there were also countless folding lawn chairs, an enormous quantity of nuts, bolts and power tools, two lawn mowers, several snow shovels, nine cases of canning jars, dusty wreaths for every imaginable holiday, tons of mouse poop and one odd shaped cardboard box with a tin inside it.
The outside of the box read, in faded black Magic Marker, "Uncle Charlie".
Apparently, Charlie, or rather his ashes, were on Mom's "to-do" list to take care of for quite a while and then, as life sometimes happens when you're raising five young children, got put on the back burner for another day....
Today was that day. I found Uncle Charlie. In the garage. His Tupperware was nowhere in sight.
With no disrespected intended, I understand this is a delicate situation and I don't want to offend anyone or be rude to the deceased, but what in the world was I supposed to do with Uncle Charlie?
I unfolded one of those 1960s lawn chairs and sat behind the garage, out of Mom's and the countless spiders' sight, to contemplate my next step. The last thing I wanted to do was upset Mom and I was pretty sure finding Uncle Charlie in the garage would not make her day.
I came up with nothing.
So I called Big Sister and explained the situation. Nothing. Baby Sister wasn't much help either. It was Middle Sister who had her wits about her-- Translation-- She was the only one able to stop laughing long enough to tell me to fess up and go directly me to Mom, who in turn directed me to her minister, who then arranged a date to say a few prayers and scatter Uncle Charlie's ashes in the woods behind the chapel.
At the conclusion of the 23rd Psalm, I thought for a moment about my youthful impressions of Uncle Charlie and if maybe being a bratty kid jaded my impressions of Mom's relative. She always had something nice to say about Charlie and commented many times that he'd given her the rocking chair she'd rocked her babies in.
When we returned home from the chapel, I had a sudden need to rearrange Mom's bottomless and very disorganized Tupperware cabinet. No Uncle Charlie's light green Tupperware wasn't in there but I'm pretty sure I found a little compassion for our uncle as I sorted through the mismatched pieces.
When I was finished I was glad Uncle Charlie was finally laid to rest and very glad I had found him before the garage sale.
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