This has been one of the weirdest, craziest, saddest weeks I have had in a long time. Around 7:30 on Wednesday morning, I was about to get dressed for work. I glanced at my phone and saw a missed call from my mother. This immediately made me nervous and as I called her back I could feel a knot forming in my stomach. There was no way for me to prepare for what she was about to tell me: My Uncle Larry had died. It was sudden, unplanned, and shocking. I sobbed as I called work and explained that I would be out for a few days and made my way over to my parents house where we stared at one another for about 8 hours, not knowing what else to do with ourselves.
Chris, my cousins and I met the rest of our family in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon. Uncle Larry was buried in a family plot Friday morning and we arrived home late Saturday night.
Uncle Larry, my mother’s youngest brother, was quite a guy. Aside from his flaming red hair, handlebar mustache and infectious giggle, he had a huge heart. We could always rely on Uncle Larry to take us to State Fair and teach us where the best beer gardens were (everywhere), and how to win the fixed games. He knew where to buy the best bratwurst and how to cook them just right. He taught us how to drive on his ride-on mower, and how to lick my mom’s glasses so she couldn’t see, but also couldn’t get mad. He taught us the importance of siblings.
Uncle Larry also taught us some other things. Like drinking too many beers, smoking too many cigarettes, and not going to the doctor are an easy way to die before you reach 60. That you’ll leave behind both your parents, siblings, nieces and nephew, and lots of good friends. That we feel a little empty inside knowing you’re not here anymore.
So what does this mean for me now? Well, this week it meant not going to the gym since Tuesday, and eating summer sausage, cheese, and frozen custard, and drinking a lot of really cheap whiskey all week. It meant being present with my family while we mourned and holding my mom’s hand tight as we said goodbye. It meant letting my fit life go for this week. What it did not mean was letting it go forever. If anything, I use Uncle Larry’s life and death as a reminder of why I do this. Life is a precious gift and our bodies are amazing vessels. We need to be kind to ourselves in order to life a long, happy life. Life is a balancing act, but it is possible to be fit and healthy, without having an unhealthy obsession.
Goodbye, Uncle Larry. I miss you already. I hope your somewhere watching us, giggling your signature giggle.