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I remember the strange smell of his luggage. It must have been some California thing. Uncle Bobby was here to visit. It wasn’t one of those happy, annual family visits everyone seems to hear about constantly. It was permanent. Uncle Bobby
was going to live with us. I did not know that he would also die with us.
Uncle Bobby was sick; I had known that for a long time. The adults told me he had a thing called cancer, but that was all I understood. I did not know what cancer meant. The night he arrived was a scene of chaos, all mixed and jumbled in my mind. I don’t recall much detail-only strangers fluttering in and out of my house. They carried in bags and then more bags. Nobody looked at me.
My mom had stood in the main hallway, directing everyone with an official voice.
“That should go here…Yup, those are perfect…Oh, no not there,” she would say.
Finally, in came Uncle Bobby. He was wrapped in a thick blue blanket and sat in a wheelchair. He looked ashen. The color from his face was drained like a ghost. He didn’t look anything like the memories I had from visiting him in LA two years before. I was frightened.
I ran into my mom’s room and hid. I did not want to see that scary man who couldn’t walk. Eventually, the noises died down and the house seemed to sigh with relief. I slowly made my way to Uncle Bobby’s room and pushed the door open. He was lying in a hospital bed, looking uncomfortable. His eyes were winced and his body rigid.
“Is there anything else you need?” asked a lady I did not know.
Uncle Bobby’s eyes darted to mine as he wheezed, “Yes, Katherine. I need my Katherine.” His voice sounded clogged as if he had swallowed several cotton balls.
The lady’s eyebrows furrowed together in confusion as she asked, “Who is Katherine?”
“She’s his niece,” my mom clarified. “Come here, sweetie.”
My fear took hold of me again, and I ran away once more. I recall jumping into my mom’s bed where I cried and cried. This was the first time I had cried this hard, and I didn’t even know why. Later, my mom comforted me, saying all this was new and scary. She told me I was the bravest eight-year-old she knew, but it was still okay for me to be upset.
After the first night, things got a little better. I would visit Uncle Bobby down the hall, just as long as my mom or someone else came with me. He and his friends would watch movies that I didn’t understand. Thinking back, I can remember bits and pieces of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” I hardly spoke any words the entire time.
Too soon after, I was told at school that I’d be spending the night at my friend, Erica’s house. I thought nothing of it. The next day, driving home from school, my mom told me why I’d gone to Erica’s that previous night.
“…and Bobby passed away,” is the only thing I remember her telling me. I can still hear those words today. It sounded so strange at the time, not hearing “uncle” before Bobby. We always called him Uncle Bobby. It was like finalizing his death; making sure I understood that I no longer had an uncle. My heart was broken that day.
It has been nine years, and the details are fuzzy. But looking back makes things clearer. I never knew why Uncle Bobby’s death upset me so, but now I know the reason. I ran away from Uncle Bobby that night, and I never really came back.
I feel regret now, because I held back. I never told Uncle Bobby that I loved him. I was too afraid, and then he died. He is gone now, and I’ll never get back my chance. I miss him, and I made a mistake. Yet now I know that you can’t wait around hoping things will happen. You have to go for it and get it done.
It’s all very clear to me now: If you love someone, tell them! Don’t ever hold back. I’ll never again keep words unspoken inside of me. We never know when our last chance to say those words will come.
My words to Uncle Bobby were left unsaid. I should have told him so many things that I didn’t. It is too late for me to tell him I love him, but I never again will miss the opportunity to say “I love you” to another. We cannot hide love, because one day that person isn’t going to be here. I know that now, and it is up to me to make better choices because of it.