My thirtieth birthday is this year, March 16th to be exact, but this year something happened, it will be solemn, and celebration mixed into one. My birthday is shared by my favorite great-uncle, but this year is different; instead of sharing chocolate cake, I will be at his funeral.
Our normal family dinner will be dressed as white tombstones lined up like trained soldiers. There will be a lot of tears, I am sure; I know my heart will feel the loss all over again, I will wish for one more kitchen table chat or a “Hey Kiddo” mustache kiss. This is a day of loss and sorrow, but it will also be one of celebration. We get to celebrate the man he was and what he did, how he impacted each of us. My Uncle Ronnie would have been seventy-four this year, most of my thirty years were in fact spent celebrating our birthday together. We have the occasional years of travel or business, but the one thing that was always certain is that we had a guaranteed birthday buddy.
I don’t know if he ever knew how much we loved him, I hope he did. There are so many things I remember that have a core part in who I am, which was shaped and molded by the impact my family has had on me. This side of the family are Martins. This is language for some of the most stubborn, spunky, and fiery individuals you will ever meet. Martin-blood is the kind everyone wants on their side when a war breaks out. They will fight to the death and stand up in the face of adversity.
Family dinner conversations were always my favorite. This is the place that taught me how to form a lot of my own opinions and not back down from them. Ronnie loved talking politics and the current state of the world, being a Vietnam vet, the vigor never left him, and his family matched the intensity of opinions and topics that landed on the glass table at family gatherings.
I learned how to not be afraid to speak up, to have a slightly wicked sense of humor to get through life and that when the going got tough somehow, we always found our way back to one another.
I hope he is teaching the saints in heaven how to have a good laugh and I am pretty sure he is trying to get my grandma out of whatever trouble she has currently found herself in, but I am sure glad they have each other now. These are the kind of people that leave a lasting mark on you, the ones that without a shadow of a doubt have your back and no matter how far you fall will always think you are the greatest.
That is what I loved the most about my uncle, he just thought we were the best. It didn’t matter how much time had passed or what we did, he knew us and thought we were still great. This man, who we always said had nine lives (getting hit by a train and surviving should say something) lived one life very well. He was talented, witty, and loyal; always showing up -probably an hour late- but he was always there
This birthday will be special, we get to honor a man who is worth celebrating. His life and his love for us will not be forgotten, down to his cut off fingers. We will tell stories and relive the memories, I hope we laugh and cry, remembering someone who was that great deserves celebration all on its own. So, that day I will say goodbye, eat some chocolate cake and ponder the joy that is mine in knowing such a man.