My Uncle Don (married to my mother, Nadine's, older sister, Marva) was a booming presence in my youth. I recall with amazement the log cabin built with his own hands at Crescent Lake. Summers there with my cousins, Sue, Barry, and Rob were idyllic in the way that only childhood can contain. Carrying buckets down to the lake to haul up fresh water for washing dishes and the smell of fresh pancakes cooked atop a wood burning stove with wild huckleberries in late summer are memories as vivid today as they were fifty years ago.
I will never forget lying in my bed at night gazing up at the rafters to see what animal shapes I could construct out of the knots in the knotty pine support beams that held the cabin in place. In some ways, my Uncle Don was like this himself; a solid beam in the house of my extended family.
Years later, when I was at Sue and Wayne's one weekend I recall picking up the phone, on a whim, and calling my Uncle. It had probably been years since I'd talked to him. No matter. He welcomed my call and an hour later we were still at it. Okay, truth be told, he was still at it! Anyone who knew him even a little bit knew what a great story teller Don was. The "gift of gab" some call it. Well, Don had it and was not at all shy about sharing his near photographic memory of the many experiences he had acquired over many decades of living.
Now, in his passing, I find it is the sound of his voice that I most easily recall. I miss him and also feel a sense of joy in the knowledge of how fully he lived his life, to the very end.