Thursday, July 18, 2013

On sweaters and distant uncles

My uncle Arto loved sweaters. A tall, grey man, he hated being cold above all else -- a combination of a weak composition and an upbringing that valued staying warm. It’s the reason Armenians travel everywhere with slippers and keep spares for their guests. Cold could mean the death of you, and upon moving to Ajax, Ontario in the late 1980s, the frigid Canadian air became my uncle Arto’s arch-nemesis.

So he kept cosy with thick cardigans and tweed blazers, even in the steam bath that Ontarians call July. He wore his moustache thick and nuked his beer for 15 seconds in the microwave to take the chill off.

He did not like actual kisses, for fear of germs, and we made a game of our Armenian obligation to greet each other as such by making overly cartoonish air smooches instead. "Mwah, mwah," he'd say with an impish grin, with a grandiose head bob from side to side. But on a couple very special occasions, (my wedding day and when my children were born), he carefully grabbed my shoulders and planted one right on my cheek.

Related to me by marriage, I got to know very little about him in the 25+ years of our acquaintance. He loved to travel and was a business man of some sort. He liked to be warm, and even though he may have seemed cold affectionately, he always had a big grin for you and an ear to listen to what was new in your life.

He passed away last Saturday on his 76th birthday. I think there’s something poetic in that – leaving the earth on the same day you arrived. Life comes full circle.

Rest in peace Arto day-day. I hope heaven is warm and cosy, full of sweaters and lukewarm beer.


Laura said...

Lovely post! I'm sorry for you loss.

He sounds a lot like my Nonno (my father's dad). He too always dressed warmly and would put his beer bottle on the window sill, right in the exact location where the sun would hit it so that it would be warm.

He used to smell like his vegetable garden and tomato sauce (the rare Italian man who liked cooking for his grandkids) and sometimes I can still hear the sounds of little crackling hand-radio, the channel turned to the sound of his favourite Italian news program.

It's those little memories that we carry with us, long after a loved one has passed away. My Nonno passed away when I was 14 -- nearly 16 years ago but I still remember those things so vividly.

I'm sure it will be the same of your memories of your uncle - decades down the road.


Kelly said...

Such a lovely post. I'm sorry for your loss.

Louise said...

What a beautiful post, Nadine.