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A Soul Still Very Much Alive

It was late that night when the phone rang. I had been asleep, but the sound of my mom’s footsteps out in the hall woke me up. A few moments later, just as my mom was picking up the ringing phone, my dad walked out of my parent’s bedroom and turned on the hall light, mumbling something about who would be calling us at this hour of the night. The bright light flooded into my room and hurt my eyes. I figured that I might as well get out of bed and see what was going on.

When I walked into the kitchen, my mom was still on the phone. She was talking in a low voice and was nodding her head solemnly. My dad was standing next to her, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. I sat down in a chair, still half-asleep.

My mom hung up the phone.

“Who was that?” I asked, yawning.

“Muriel,” she replied. Muriel was my elderly grand-uncle’s live-in caregiver. My grand-uncle’s (I called him Uncle Don) health had taken a slight turn for the worse recently, which kind of means something if you’re ninety-three. Muriel looked after him, and made sure he ate enough and didn’t hurt himself.

“What did she want?” I asked, slowly gaining consciousness.

“Uncle Don passed away tonight,” my mom replied, opting to get straight to the point instead of beating about the bush. I can’t recall if she was crying or not.

I probably should have burst out crying, or at least felt shocked. But I didn’t really feel anything, just a sort of hollow buzzing way in the back of my head. I just sat there and didn’t say anything. That night was about a year ago, and the fact of my grand-uncle’s death still has never really “hit me”. Over the course of time, I’ve just slowly grown to accept the fact and be comfortable with it; instead of putting off thinking about it until it all makes itself obvious in a huge rockslide of emotion.

Uncle Don’s funeral was a few weeks after that night. It took place in a special cemetery for people who had served in the U.S. Army or Navy for some time; Uncle Don had served in the Navy when he was much younger. The funeral took place in a sheltered gazebo in the middle of the cemetery, and everyone present was wearing their most formal clothes. Two soldiers took a big American flag from where it had been lying on top of the casket and, fast as lightning, intricately folded it into a perfect little triangle. It was fascinating, but sad at the same time. My mom cried a lot during the funeral, and so did a few of my other relatives who were there. I tried my best not to cry. I hate crying at funerals; everyone around you walks up to you and tries to comfort you, saying awkward things, when all you really want is to just be left alone for a minute with your memories, and no one else. But enough about tears; let’s get on to something more positive.

My Uncle Don was an odd old man. He had only one good eye, which he peered through happily at everything around him. He had a big smile and an even bigger heart. Even up into his nineties, he’d get up in the mornings and go roaming around Manhattan with his crooked, taped-together old camera. One of his favorite activities was going to the camera store to get his pictures developed (he still used a film camera; he seemed to like the idea of digital ones but would have had no idea how to use one). He would wear his old tweed jackets on even the hottest summer day. He was quite a sight: this tiny, skinny old man, beaming away, tottering down the street, cane in one hand and camera in the other. He loved buying me odd little trinkets, and called us every time he got a good deal at one of his favorite stores, or got a free mango ice cream at the Indian restaurant on the corner.

He would also call us whenever there was a full moon. “Hello, this is Don V. Becker,” his phone messages would always begin if we weren’t home when he called us. “Please tell Brenda”- my mom- “that there is a full moon tonight.” He would always speak to the message machine as if it were some kind of living operator that was taking notes on what to tell us when we got home. That was just one of his many little quirks, which are too numerous to fit in this one story.

So that was my Uncle Don: born New Yorker (he died in his apartment, just a block away from the house he was born in), urban explorer, and loving grand-uncle. It makes me smile to think of him shuffling along the streets of Manhattan, shakily snapping photographs. He was a brave little person, full of interesting memories, and always eager to share them. I’ll miss him a lot. But for now, whenever there’s a full moon, I can always look up at its glowing face and smile, thinking of my Uncle Don.



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Sarbear This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm
Great ending, kind of sad, but touching. Really good short story. Make sure you check out my poems too
 
katiethefabulous replied...
Feb. 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm
Thanks! =)
 
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