Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Goodbye to a Great-Uncle, Age 102

I learned yesterday that my mother's uncle died a few days ago, at age 102. I didn't know the man very well; he lived several provinces away, in Alberta. I did meet him several times over the years. He impressed me with his gentle nature and sense of humour.

I met him first in Alberta in 1957 and then again when he visited my parents in 1963 or 1964 in Ontario. We lived in the Niagara Peninsula at the time and he wanted to do some sightseeing. I took him on a tour in my 1954 Plymouth. Along the way, I just 'happened' to be driving down a country road where a girlfriend of mine lived. As we neared her home, I saw her walking up the driveway and towards the road.

My heart sank. I clearly had not thought the matter through. Let me explain: I was raised in a very strict, fundamentalist Christian home. Girls weren't supposed to wear makeup or jewellery, or show too much skin. That didn't stop me, of course, from dating girls who broke these rules. I was just very careful to keep my personal life hidden from my parents. To suddenly come upon the young lady, especially dressed as she was in a low-cut sun-dress, wearing makeup and jewellery, was quite alarming. I was afraid that if I stopped and she were a bit too familiar with me, word might get back to my parents via my great-uncle that I was associating with a tart and I would have some explaining to do. I know that this sounds unbelievably quaint today, but that is the way things were.

I had to stop. She recognized my car and I really had no choice. She and I chatted for a couple of minutes and I introduced her to my great-uncle. Then we left to resume the tour.

As we pulled away, my great-uncle turned to me and said "Good-looking girl, isn't she?"

Well, yes, she was. And that ended the matter. My parents never found out. I never had to release any closely guarded secrets of mine. Life went on.

Thanks, Uncle Arthur. You were a true gentleman and the world was a better place with you in it.

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