I’m going to talk about my uncle Glen. I don’t talk much about family, because I never know who it’s safe to talk about and who it’s not. That’s why you don’t see much about the kids, the wife, or anyone else in my extended family. But today I’m going to make an exception.
Glen Edward Nichols
January 19, 1951 – April 13, 2018
I lost my uncle Friday night, or rather he passed away. I can’t really say that I lost him, because I don’t know that I ever really knew him. I liked him. I enjoyed the time I spent with him. But I wasn’t really involved in his life or that of his family. Facebook doesn’t count here. This is a situation that’s much the same for most relatives outside my immediate family. I think we’re all guilty of this to one degree or another.
When he was diagnosed, I was quietly dumbstruck that a man who was so healthy and full of life could get such horrible news. As he went through chemo and then the cell transplant, I was happy to see him posting his progress and keeping everyone in the loop, but I let other voices do the well-wishing. I gave thumbs-ups and occasionally a brief encouraging word on his convalescence, but never got around to visiting or engaging in any real communication. I didn’t reach out and I regret that.
But this isn’t about me and my sense of guilt and remorse; I’ve grown comfortable with my failings. This is about my uncle and honoring him and his memory. I’m confident he was a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. To my eye, he always seemed very supportive of his family, I think he took a lot of joy from them, and it always felt like there was a lot of love there—in a quiet, Nichols sort of way. He was a beer brewer, a wine maker, and I can say that I enjoyed most of what he let me sample. I don’t know much, but even without Facebook, I know that he loved baseball and golf. But, this just feels like a list…
I remember when I was younger, probably somewhere in middle school, before he and my aunt had kids of their own, getting a pill bottle full of flies and a microscope as gifts from them. I remember trying to convince them to play D&D with me, or maybe just trying to explain it to them. I remember feeling that with less than 20-years separating us that maybe I could relate to them more easily than my mom. But then I became a teen and I stopped liking everyone for a time. I grew-up in fits and spurts, became entangled with my own life and what was going on with first me and then my own family. As everybody gets involved in their own lives, it just becomes so easy to let the distance develop into disassociation.
I have good memories with my uncle Glen; camping and tubing down the river, visiting and gift exchanges at his home on the lake, family gatherings, and those younger days. But sadly, most of my memories are peripheral to him and not of us, uncle and nephew. That’s not bad. But it just goes to show how we can just take relationships for granted and never really work to develop them. I wish I would have known him better, but I’m afraid we didn’t have all that much in common. Or maybe we did. It’s too late to find out now.
As I said, I liked my uncle. I enjoyed the time I spent with him. From my perspective, he was a good man, a proud father, and a content husband, who had many friends and who seemed to enjoy life. Mostly, I thought of him as a quiet kind man of good humors and calm disposition.
I think I’ll pull out that bottle of Happy Dad wine and drink a toast to the memory of a fine man who I never really got to know.