My mom's younger brother. Born on April 1. For 24 days of every year, he claimed to be only one year younger than she.
I remember going to Uncle Pete's house--his huge waterbed, his collection of Cathy and Garfield books (Cathy actually belonged to "Aunt Cathy," his long-term girlfriend), the rows of bookshelves under his dining room window where I found treasures like Watership Down. The time my brother ate a few handfuls of aspirin (WTF?!) at his house and had to go to the emergency room. The cats, sleek and smooth-furred, who prowled around his house. The crystal radio kit and the Radio Shack Encyclopedia of Technology he gave us as Christmas presents. The time Herm and I tried to glue a quarter to the sidewalk to fool him (note: Elmer's Glue does not adhere coins to concrete). For years, whenever I heard the word "bachelor," I thought of Uncle Pete.
For the past few years, Uncle Pete lived with Mom and Dad, upstairs in the big mega-room where Herm and I lived growing up. He wasn't well--he had chronic pancreatitis and was in pain almost all the time. But when our boys were there to visit, he'd drag himself downstairs and re-invent himself almost immediately. He somehow found the energy to engage in water fights, to pick out cool presents (like the Playmobil castle), to call the boys out when they were up to no good. He loved to read history and military thrillers--Mom always said he should've stayed in the Army, and he would have been a damn fine officer. And every Christmas morning, he whipped up a damn fine bunch of Brandy Alexanders.
Last night, Mom went to check on Uncle Pete and found he wasn't breathing. He was showered, clean-shaven and smartly dressed as always. Dad called at about 7:30 to tell us the news--Uncle Pete was gone.
We have a family ritual called "Tell the Day." Every night, each of us (the boys take turns going first) tells everyone else his or her three favorite parts of the day. Last night, instead of talking about what happened yesterday, we shared our favorite memories of Uncle Pete. And Fisher, rather than talking (again, WTF?!), drew a picture of himself, Rhys and Uncle Pete having a water fight in my parents' backyard under the apple tree.
I didn't call him on his birthday last Saturday. I didn't send a card. It was a busy week, and it just didn't cross my mind. But that is no excuse.
We love you, Uncle Pete, and we will always miss you.