My uncle ‘Cec’ was a great inspiration to me. I think of him often and the things he had inspired in me as a child. The last time I saw him was at my brother’s funeral in 2007. He had grown a little feeble and I thought I saw a little glaze in his eyes, very unlike the man I knew as a child. I remembered him as a strong man with broad shoulders,big biceps,and wow, could he saw wood with a bucksaw!
As we sat in my sister’s living room that day, Uncle Cec was in a reflective mood and we reminisced all the times he visited me as a child and the triumphs and tragedies of his life. He was my dad’s brother, the second son of five boys growing up in the 1930’s in St. Leonard’s, (now known as St.Lunaire) on Newfoundland’s great Northern Peninsula. Life in early out port Newfoundland during The Great Depression wasn’t easy for anyone and uncle Cec had his share of troubles too. But it was like he’d always used to say, “life is what you make it.”
He told me of some really hard times. Like the great ‘Nor-wester’ - the storm in the fall of ’37 that nearly stripped his family clean. My grandfather used to tell me of this tragedy in bits and pieces but uncle Cec seemed to recall it more vividly. He told me of winds gusting up to 70 miles per hour and 2 metre waves crashing again the cove, ripping against my grandfather’s wharf and nearly tearing the stagehand apart. "Nearly lost everything that fall,” he said. “Almost everything, ... and we didn’t have much to begin with.” But he told me he gained courage from my grandmother’s family Bible and read about the tragedies of Job and how he helped my pop’s rebuild that spring and how the fish was so plentiful that year. “What goes around, comes around” was another of his favourite quotes. I swear he had faith as solid as the old rock his daddy’s house was built on. I remember one summer, he came to live with us at our house in Roddickton, 120 miles south from St. Leonard’s. There were only one winding narrow gravel road connecting the communities in those days so uncle Cec elected to take a two day trip down the coast in an old schooner. He arrived tired and hungry but full of cheer and good wit.
Dad told us uncle Cec came to help him build our new house and to help relieve him of the burden of working all day in the woods and trying to construct a home for his family after dark. But the way he took the time for my brother and I that summer, I just think he came to be our friend. Tired as he was after all day, he took the time to joke, tell stories and take us fishing on Saturdays.
I learned a lot from uncle Cec. He taught me not so much in what he said but in what he didn’t say. The saying, actions speaks louder than words was certainly true for my most beloved uncle. It seemed that nothing got him down. I honestly never saw him once get discouraged. It seemed he never saw a situation as a problem, only a challenge that could be overcome. When a situations arose, he would roll up his sleeves and get to it.
Uncle Cec was not a wealthy man by any stretch. He saw riches not so much in money as he did in making people happy. Riches to him was just a good reputation . I never saw him get the blues. Blue to Uncle Cec was just the Atlantic ocean on a calm sunny day. Uncle Cec never married. I don’t know why. I’m sure he would have made a fine husband and father. Love, responsibility and integrity was just a way of life to him. He certainly was a father figure to me and the best role model of an uncle anyone could ask for. He taught me to have faith in a higher power, never rely on what I think I know and never lie. Lying, he used to say makes a hard life because you are always working hard to cover it up but honesty gives you a clear conscience and makes life easier. king Solomon could not have said it no better himself.
I'm sure there are many uncle Cec's still around today. Some may be still active and sitting around benches in our malls or in nursing homes waiting to give those sweet tid bits of truth we all need. We need more Uncle Cec’s in today's world. Let's not cast them off as "old" but view them more as mentors who have walked down this path of life and can still teach us a thing or two.
“Life is short... live it to the fullest ,”he said. Just another nugget of wisdom from my uncle Cec, I thought to myself as I shook his hand to say good-bye that day in 2007. Now that I'm retired, my wife and I get a chance to do a bit of travelling. So in the spring of 2012 we decided to take a trip up The Great Northern Peninsula to visit family and friends. A visit with uncle Cec was on my top priority list. But questions lingered in my mind that day. Was he still that man of value and integrity that I once knew in him? Would he even still remember me? Where does he now live? These questions scrolled over in my mind as I drove up the long Viking Trial to St. Lunaire. I wanted so badly to re-connect with this man; to hear his voice once again and to see how much he had changed in his twilight years. I learned from my aunt Velma that uncle Cec had grown a little feeble and was now living in a nursing home in St. Anthony. The next day we headed to that place to see my uncle once again. The kind attendant in the nursing home lead to us to his room. I knocked gently and waited. Moments later he opened the door. We looked at each other for a brief moment.
“Hec, George’s boy!” he said with a smile as we embraced.
His voice, though a little weaker, was still familiar and comforting.
We talked for almost two hours. He told me about his new friends and how he could still beat anyone in a good game of checkers. He still went for his daily walk, took part in the seniors gym classes and his took his weekly trip to the mall. He even joked about his new roommate and how he plans to get him in shape.
Even though he looked a little old and bent and perhaps a little slower from what I remembered him, he still had that twinkle in his eye and positive persona about him. As I turned to say good-bye I thought I saw a tear in his eye. I fought to hold back from breaking too.
"Don't wait five more years to come see me again," he said with a half-way grin. "I won't," I promised.
It was a long and reflective drive back home that day. I know they will bury him some day in that old familiar cemetery where I used to go to see the headstones of my grandparents. But if he should go before me, part of him though will be buried in my heart.
Submitted by Anonymous
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