Last night my cousin Sarah let me know that my uncle Gale, my father’s brother, had passed away. This hit me pretty hard. Growing up, Gale was the closest of my non-immediate family, literally, as he and his family lived in a house that I walked by every day to and from school. I would frequently just drop in on him and my aunt Karen and my cousins, just because I was in the neighborhood. They always let me in and Gale and I would talk about whatever I felt like talking about. It was a very normal, familial sort of thing, which was a thing I needed back in those days, when so many other things about my life were skewed pretty far off from normal.
Later on, in adult life, Gale acted as my backstop in two pretty important moments: When I was just getting started and I needed to buy a car, and about a decade later when Krissy and I were buying our first house but I had rather inconveniently been laid off from my job. Both times, Gale (and Karen) acted as co-signers to the loans, putting their faith, and their credit, in me. Both times without complaint or hesitation; he knew I was good for it, and also that this sort of thing was what family was for. It was a lesson and a kindness that did not go idly by me.
Gale did not lead a dramatic life. He worked the same job for decades, was married to the same person for decades, had the same hobbies (music and computers and motorcycles) for years and years. But in all the ways I knew him, and knew of him from others, he was a decent and kind person, good to friends and family, the person on whom people relied, because he could be relied upon. He was the sort of friend that everyone wished they could have, and he was the uncle that I needed growing up.
Our adult lives did not have us keeping close, other than the occasional wave on social media. It was not estrangement but merely the day-to-day run of life; he was in California and I was in Ohio and we had our own immediate families to tend to, which in his case included grandchildren. But it was a good thing to see him pop up in updates, being part of his family life, Gale just being Gale. My affection for him never waned, and I always smiled thinking of him. Here was a good man.
I will continue to smile when I think of him. His life is complete, and it was a life we would all be lucky to lead; one of love and friendship and generosity and kindness. I learned a lot from Gale over the years, and when I strive to be the better version of myself, he is one of the models I take from to get there. He had my love, and has it still.
My condolences and love to Karen, his wife and my aunt, and to my cousins Justin and Sarah, their families, Gale’s friends and loved ones, and all who knew him. My heart aches for them all. May his memory be a blessing. I am certain it will be.