My earliest memory of Uncle Terry is of his kisses. When I was a little girl, Uncle Terry would stop in at our house overnight on his way to my grandparents house. He always got in late and I would wait up. In came this guy with big Afro hair. He would never wait for me to warm up to him as you often have to do with kids. He would chase me, pick me up, and give me the biggest uncle kiss - always kinda wet and sloppy and tickly from his mustache. It was a kiss that said, "OK now we're friends. I'm only here for a short time. I can't wait for you to warm up!" I was just a little Bubas back then, and Uncle Terry was one of the few people to still call me by my childhood nickname.
I loved Uncle Terry, like I do all my uncles and aunts, quietly from the background of our large family gatherings. This past August long weekend, I watched my uncle serving up blender drinks from his homemade Margaritaville! I watched at how he made a point to speak to every person - right from the bald little babies to the grey-haired little grannies. And he knew how to make them laugh. I admired this quality from a distance and wished I was more like that. You always felt good about yourself after talking to Uncle Terry.
On August long weekend we celebrated grandma and grandpa's 60th anniversary. I had this feeling that things in our family were changing. I wasn't sure how many more of these get togethers would be taking place in grandma and grandpa's retirement town. I felt strongly that we couldn't just let this weekend be a regular family gathering so when Karen called to suggest we up the ante a bit I quickly jumped on board. At the end of the phone call we had a to do list, some jobs to delegate, and I volunteered to make a toast to grandma and grandpa at the anniversary dinner.
Shortly after I gave that toast to my grandparents on their 60th anniversary, Uncle Terry came to me and said, "That was awesome, Bubas," then he gave me a hug. I laughed and replied, "oh maybe I'll toast you on your 50th birthday next year." We laughed and hugged some more and moved along in the supper buffet line. That may have been my last conversation with Uncle Terry.
One of my favorite memories was the first time Jon and I came to visit Terry and Karen at their new house. Many of you will remember this weekend too. We arrived at their house just as Terry was carrying in this huge, monster, big screen TV. Kaleigh said, "Mom is going to kill you!" and he replied something like, "oh, she won't even notice it downstairs." We had the best time that trip. Terry had hockey tickets for us all. Karen had her usual home cooked meals - roasted ham, creamy dill potatoes and always fresh blueberry muffins for breakfast. We rocked all night - the adults downstairs next to the big screen and the kids in Uncle's immaculate garage competing for the Stanley Cup. I have always felt welcome at Terry and Karen's home. They have admirable family values and my three cousins are the proof.
I will always remember Uncle Terry for the corny jokes he would tell me as a kid and for the racier ones he would email me as an adult. On Tuesday evening when I was preparing to leave home to join the rest of our family in saying our final goodbyes to Uncle Terry, I was looking at my pictures from August long weekend. I was looking to see if I had one of Uncle. I did. As I was looking at it, Callie crawled on my lap and we looked at the picture together. I asked her if she knew who that was. She did. Then she said, "Remember he taught me that trick." She proceeds to hold her hand out and says,
"Give me five.
I guess all of us kids have our favorite uncle memory.
I wrote these words a year ago on stationary from the Franklin Hotel after attending Uncle Terry's funeral service. I did not get the chance to toast him on his 50th birthday.
To my family who have been struggling today, this week, this past year: I love you all sooo much. Wherever you are, get your family together. I don't know if it ever gets any easier but we are stronger together than we are a part.