December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothers, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid) I immediately thought of my sistafriends wedding - but when I started to reflect on a gathering I couldn't stop thinking about my Uncle Rocket.
My Uncle Rocket passed away last December – it wasn’t technically in 2010 but it was almost exactly 1 year ago.
Uncle Rocket knew he wasn’t going to make it and got his affairs in order. He planned his own funeral – it was held in his favorite pub filled with friends and family celebrating his life. I wasn’t particularly close with him and I have only a handful of memories of time spent with him.
Rocket was a total mystery for me as a kid. People talked about him with equal parts frustration, scorn and God-like revere. My Dad (who would be his ex-brother-in-law) would jump to his defense anytime someone would criticize Rockets unorthodox ways (even if this just meant a lack of attendance at a family affair). My Dad would say things like, ‘you don’t know how you’d behave if you were a genius with a photographic memory!’. I think he was my Granma’s favorite – because of their shared belief that education is the greatest of heights.
Although I could never figure out how others truly felt about Rocket – other than my Dad who thought him an unrecognized genius – I thought he was wild and mysterious. I’ve always wanted to be wild and mysterious myself – therefore, I was in the God-like revere group.
My Uncles are tradesmen. I don’t think there is anything more honest in life than learning a trade – and making a living with your hands. Rocket spent many years logging in British Columbia. When I saw his friends gathered in the pub I realized that he was a part of a community both misunderstood and elite in its own right – it reminded me of my own shipboard community. There existed a hierarchy in which rank meant nothing and experience meant everything. In a community like this vocabulary alone can gain you entrance or leave you isolated. Rocket worked hard – physically hard – it was wonderfully honest and in today’s world somehow sacred.
His daughter – whom I hadn’t seen in years – gave a eulogy that had me both laughing and crying. I don’t think anyone has ever impressed me as much. Her grace, charisma, and character were awe inspiring. She truly was a lady (I on the other hand got ridiculously sloshed and rowdy…I blame this on being a sailor….my family must have been mortified). I realize that this sounds trite and slightly cliché – but I honestly have never felt as proud to share blood with someone as I did while she was giving her eulogy. I wrote on a post it some of his words that she shared with us ‘you don’t have to be the smartest, or the strongest, you just have to be the hardest working’.
Any question I had about what kind of man my Uncle Rocket was got cleared up during his last days. He told my Mom that he didn’t want her to make a special trip from Hawaii to B.C. just to see him not at his best. My Mom accepted this – I don’t think she liked it – but she understood it. He called back a few days later asking her to come for a visit after all. I’ll be forever grateful to him for this. He did it for her – he wasn’t in need of closure – but he knew she was – so he gave it to her. I think over the years I’d been unknowingly mad at him for not respecting the fact that people loved him. When he invited my Mom to his home I realized that he did respect his sisters love – was thankful for it in fact. We needed far more from him than he ever needed from us – he loved us and knew we loved him...and that was enough for him – it was us that didn’t respect him.
The funeral turned into a party (although I may have a skewed view due to my over imbibing). There were toasts, heartfelt memories, silly anecdotes, uproarious laughter and quiet moments of silence. It was honestly the first time I’ve felt proud to be a daughter, niece and cousin - proud to belong to a family that works hard and simply lives life as best they can.