My Uncle David

{This is a personal post.}

I remember my Uncle David at family gatherings of the past. I remember him sitting on the curb with the kids while we watched the Fourth of July parade, his long arms dangling between his knees. I remember his mustached grin and ringing laughter in a room full of escalating voices. His expressiveness and his genuine joy are the things about him that stand out the most in my memory.

When I was pregnant with my second child, an unexpected addition, my mother told me about the year her brother, David was born. Up until him, she had been the baby, the youngest in a line of five who had come before her. Her jealousy of the new family member became so frustrating to her mother, our Nanny, that, one day, Nanny handed David and bottle to my mother. She said “This is your baby now. Feed him.” Once my mother saw David as her baby, her attitude changed. She became his protector and caregiver. Unfortunately, as they aged, that didn’t stop them from beating up on each other along with the rest of the group, totaling seven siblings.

The seven. We all try to get together as a group at least three times per year. The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. As time has passed, our family has moved outward from its starting point in northern New Jersey, now four generations reaching six states, the furthest of which was California for a while. Uncle David settled in Florida. Our grandparents sold the family home and retired to North Carolina. It’s rare to be able to coordinate an event to which all of the seven siblings can attend. Distance, time, work, money. There is always something keeping at least one away.

Even as a child, I could perceive the importance of the original siblings coming together a few times a year to laugh and joke and tell the same stories we have all heard several times over. We eat and play games and mingle and catch up. The last time they were all together was for Christmas was several years ago.

This year will be difficult. I find myself in a strange position, while organizing the Christmas gathering. I am responsible for curating the merriment of a group that will forever and too soon be incomplete. To know, in a room of smiling faces, we are all painfully aware that one of the seven will be missing as we attempt to find joy in the season with those who live on.

I know we can find so much about which to laugh; we have unimaginable fun together. Honoring the memory of David will be bitter, but knowing, at Christmastime, how much we all share in having loved him will be sweet.

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