For as long as I remember, we have referred to Uncle Ken as 'Unc'.
He's not my uncle, he's my second uncle, technically. My mum's uncle. His wife is Mid (who is really Mary) but ever since my mother was a child, they have been known as Mid & Unc.
When I was growing up in Alberta, we would go to Kelowna every summer to visit with my mom's parents. Sometimes we would stay two weeks, sometimes the whole summer. We would go to the parks, the grocery stores. Old MacDonald's farm (amusement park), or Flintstone's (amusement park) or the waterslides. We would play dice or cards, watch TV, play outside. It was in Kelowna that I learned how to ride my bicycle without training wheels.
My grandmother died of cancer when I was 8, so I don't really remember too much of her. Still, it was always fun to stay with Grandpa in Kelowna for summer or Christmas, because we would also see Mid & Unc. They are always lots of fun, Mid has always been an active woman and even when we saw her last year, her mind is as sharp as a pin.
My grandfather died in 1992, and ever since then I haven't been to Kelowna too often. Probably only a handful of times in the last 18 years.
Just after Christmas in 1999, Unc had a stroke and then a heart attack within a week of each other. A month later Mid had a fall that injured her ankle, which took her months to recover from.
But they kept on.
Since Unc's 1999 episode, he has been moving a lot slower. I wouldn't say he has full-on dementia, as often happens after a stroke, but Mid steers him towards food, clothing, and (when guests are present) conversation. They have been married for 63 years.
While I was at a chaotic live fish offload last night, I received a phone call from my mother's cousin Donna, whom I have not seen since I was 12 (24 years ago), calling to tell me that Unc has had another episode - not sure it it was a stroke or heart attack - and a fall. He's been in the hospital for several days. He's 84.
At this point, nobody expects him to live, at least not for long. I don't have any more information than this, but it's easy to see. I'm not as close to Mid & Unc as I used to be, so while losing a loved one is sad, I still sort of feel removed from the whole process.
But still. These are relatives I spent a significant amount of my childhood with. As we know, those kinds of memories are very powerful. So losing a a loved one like this digs up those old memories, nostalgia kicks in, tears fall.
I think what makes me the most sad about all this is that when Unc goes, Mid won't know what to do with herself. She and Unc have been together for more than three quarters of her life. It's common for the second spouse to die soon after the first in situations like these. I can't imagine what it will be like for me and Dan and that's what hits me the hardest. When your love is so solid that you are like one person, how do you go on?
I am fully expecting to have to go to Kelowna for a funeral in the next few weeks. I haven't seen most of this family in more than two decades and I can't even begin to imagine how emotionally intense it's going to be. And I'll have to go by myself because Dan will have to stay here for work and the kitty.
So I'm a little sad right now, mostly oblivious to the Ukee Days parade noise going on a block away. Time marches on, more fish must come off a boat at noon today, and life must continue.