The last time I saw my uncle was thirty-three years ago when I went to the Philippines. It was the first and only time I had been to the homeland of my parents. I was young and bratty, traveling without my sisters for the first and only time. I’m not sure why my parents took me, but I went willingly.
At that age, I had two concerns going to the Philippines, (1) the lack of a tv, and (2) the lack of food I was accustomed to eating. I was a child comfortably familiar with fast food, enjoying McDonald’s and KFC more than any Filipino dishes.
To be even more honest, I was afraid that any meat I would eat on this trip would be a dog. I bought into this notion for some reason. Perhaps it was my sisters who sold me on the possibility, I’m not exactly sure, but it was ever present in my thoughts around meal time. I was still young enough to scream and cry if I didn’t get my way. But while in the Philippines I would often not get my way because I just couldn’t. For those occasions, I just did not eat.
But one day my Uncle David gave in. He had two dogs when I first met them. From what I recall the dogs were friendly and full grown. He traded his dogs to another person for chickens, chickens for me to eat. I thanked him, at my mom’s prompting, not fully grateful for his kind gesture. Only days later did it really sink in what he did for me.
I gravitated to my uncle as the days passed. He was the only other person I could talk to since he spoke English, the others talking very little. He would translate for me and talk to me about anything and everything. We spent as much time as we could knowing the days would pass by quickly.
My uncle was always there for me during our time in the Philippines. One day I was a complete idiot and hurt myself while hanging out with the cool adults. I managed to get my foot caught in the back spokes of a motorcycle as it was being pushed forward. He picked me in his arms and rushed me to the local hospital.
He did so much more for me now that I think about it, and I wish I could recall more, but the memories are fading.
I do remember the last day I saw him, the day we left. I hugged him and cried, not wanting to leave him behind. I told him I would write him every day when I got back home. He said, “Of course, you will, but you will forget in time to write.” He was right.
I wrote for the first several months when we got back. The months then turned to a letter once a year. Then it turned to no letters at all. When he would call my mom, and I would answer the phone, there was no longer a sense of connection when we talked. We had grown apart, time and distance creating a wedge I believe he know would exist.
Now he is gone, at rest. But he lived a full life, and I had a brief moment to remember him. I might have never met him if I didn’t go on that trip thirty-three years ago.