I have been on a mission of outreach to uncover others who share my condition. Part of my journey has been looking back in my life to see the seeds of my need to act on my mission. I look deep and remember those in my family who have traveled the same path I am on now. Emotions well up and I can feel that fullness around my eyes. Tears are waiting to overflow the dam of my stoic self control. I would not want to escape them It is what makes me human. Healing rain that flows in abundance, they help wash my spirit clean. In our quest for meaning we look back and find moments of foreshadowing. Clues that we find anew in the future. Hidden, unbidden they reveal their presence when we least expect it. a message in a bottle we sent off to speak to our future self. A gift from the past for when we need it the most. This one of those moments.
My thoughts of my uncle Leo came to me the other day and has popped up often since then. He was a gentleman in both senses of the word. A loving husband to my aunt Zella. He possessed a easygoing wit and charm, and a kindness that surpassed that of his loving wife. His passion was making life special for all he touched. Their home was always open to all our family. many happy times we all spent together in celebration of life and family. As a boy I loved to visit them. Their home held many exotic treasures that fascinated me and made me want to see far-flung places. He was my favorite uncle, mentor and friend I felt some shame that I did not know till lately how much I love and miss him. He was not related to me by blood, but he was truly family to me.
He was a pharmacist by trade. And on special Saturdays he would take me to where he worked and sit with me at the soda fountain counter. We would both order a soda, chocolate for him, strawberry for me. We would talk of many things. People came in and recognized him. They would speak with us, I could see that he had touched them as well. He was more than their pharmacist in their eyes, he was their caring friend. I can taste those sodas now and they still taste as sweet. As sweet as my memories of those times when we were together.
One night in the late 1950's when I was sleeping over at their house. He quietly sat down next to me. I could see that something was troubling him. I saw tears in his eyes as he confessed to me that he had been to the doctor and found out he had diabetes. He spoke of how his life would change. I could see the fear, the hope, the slow acceptance of what at the time was thought of as a sentence to slow death. Of things he would have to give up to live. He apologized and told me that he would have to just have a seltzer water when we went for our Saturday afternoon visit to the pharmacy. I took his hand and told him I understood, "You are still my uncle Leo to me". I saw him live with his condition with a quiet dignity. He was still the man I knew, but I could see his inner struggle to live his life on his own terms and not let his secret condition triumph over him.
So today I want to dedicate this post to him. And pay some of the debt I owe to this kind gentle man who means so much to me. He was my uncle, my friend, my teacher and fellow traveler. His passing made the world a poorer place.I dedicate my life to help pay forward in the currency of compassion and good deeds. It is my legacy. It is my history. It is the path I choose, now and in the future. What a world we can make if we all bend a knee to help those who have fallen stand tall. Maybe I'm a dreamer. But it is a dream worth having. I would rather dream than be awake in an uncaring world bereft of human dignity and compassion.