The phone interrupted Lassie, my favourite television programme. I was lying on the floor engrossed in the story, when I heard Mum say, “Oh no, when?” A few minutes later, “When’s the funeral?” I jumped up quickly to eavesdrop. Someone had died. Who? I wanted to know, but didn’t ask.
It was the next morning when we were told. Uncle had died. I was devastated. My favourite Uncle was gone. Memories came flooding in.
I was six when I first stayed with my Auntie and Uncle. While I loved Auntie, it was Uncle I adored. I stayed there many times over the next six years, and every night we had the same little ritual. As I hugged him good night, he would whisper to me, “Look under your pillow.” Hidden there were four pieces of PK chewing gum, and a bag of chewy lollies; my own midnight feast. What a treat. My mother never discovered that Uncle spoilt me like this.
Every morning, I would rush outside to find Uncle. He would be in his place of pride and joy – the vegetable garden. There were rows and rows of carrots, beans, peas, tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins. I loved to help him dig up the potatoes, and carry the filled bucket to Auntie, with freshly cut mint from the herb patch, for her to cook later in the day. Then he and I would sit together on the porch steps podding peas and letting them drop with a clink into the stainless pot. “One for the pot and one for you,” said Uncle as he shot a pea into my open mouth.
How I loved him, and I knew he loved me. With him I felt special and accepted. Now, he was gone. ‘What would I do without him?’An emptiness and sadness stayed with me for months, as I struggled to come to terms with his empty armchair and the neglected vegetable garden, slowly filling with weeds. In an instant, life had changed for me.