Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Uncle

Last week my dad's brother died.  It was a long time coming, but as Maria Shriver once said, "Death, even when it's expected, is always a surprise."

Larry was my dad's youngest brother, and growing up I can't say we were all that close to their family.  It wasn't due to some long-simmering feud which would have made for a more interesting story, but more because of two brothers with busy lives who lived far enough apart that staying close seemed like one more thing to add to the list of grown-up obligations.

A few years after my dad died, my Aunt Pat got leukemia.  As time went on and her health deteriorated, she sent me a note saying that Larry would need things to do to keep him busy after she died and if I had any projects that needed to be done around my house I should ask him to come and do it.  Anything, she said.

Our house is one big project.

Months later I got in touch with Larry and it was decided that my downstairs bathroom would be Project #1.  He and my mom drove to town, tools in tow, and he laid the tile for the shower and floor.  I wanted the floor tile angled and he had never done that before.  "Well, how am I supposed to do that," his voiced bellowed.   

I don't know.  I thought I only had to say what I wanted and you made the magic happen.

When I said my neighbor had done it that way in her house he said, "Tell her we're coming down to see it," and he was halfway down the driveway with no idea where he was headed while I was still scrambling for my shoes. 

One trip to barge in on the neighbor and a five minute conversation was all he needed to figure out the logistics of this job and he nailed glued it.  In fact, he was so happy with this novel way to lay floor tile that he went home and did the same thing in his house.

He came back a couple of years later and did my upstairs bathroom, mom and toolbox in tow again.  My own dad would have likely offered me help like that if he had lived long enough to see Mark and I become homeowners, but he had long moved on by the time that happened.  Having Larry in the house was the next best thing.   He asked the kids what they learned in school when they walked in the door, marveled at the way Mallory inhaled asparagus for lunch in her high chair, and yelled.  Mom would remind him every afternoon that there was a napping baby in the house. 

My sister says that Larry's hands were just like Dad's.  I saw it in his nose.  Each of us staring at the features in him that we missed in our dad, clinging to his presence like a life raft in choppy waters.

I have stared at the tile work he did for me years ago as if it's some kind of priceless heirloom, but the true legacy of this uncle was the infectious, booming spirit of him in our lives...........

.............and now another family life raft has drifted off to peaceful waters where news of his pending arrival must have been highly anticipated.


  1. I liked getting to know him a bit through this post. Love and hugs...

  2. Darling Lady, that last line is very beautiful.

  3. Uncle Larry was a character. He was blessed with a gift of gab (from the Irish side) and superb carpenter (from the German side)
    This meant he could talk your ear off and never miss a step to complete his task.
    That's not easy.... it' just that he made it look easy !
    Good story Kath-Bob ! Loved the picture too.

  4. Kath, for me Larry was dad after dad was gone. Nothing was too big to handle and we learned quickly that if a Werner name was going on the project it was going to be done right. My favorite was when he helped me re-do our bathroom, never having done the work before I drove him nuts asking questions, postulating etc. Finally, he stood up, looked me square in the eye and said "you know what your problem is, you think too much" to which I replied "I got that from your father and brother"!
    Bro Jim
    P.S. Mark did a great job on the eulogy