Jul 18, 2012

The Summer My Uncle Died.

The summer my uncle died
I shaved my head
I got a cat
I accidentally took up running.
How do you accidentally take up running?
The same way you do anything else.
The same way you fall in love
fall into a job
fall into a friendship
fall into a hobby.
It sneaks up on you and you trick yourself in or out of it
and before you know it,
you're running.

The summer my uncle died
I saw an audition notice for a Shakespearean play
I felt I should audition.
So I did.  And got the role.

The summer my uncle died
I went to the Llama festival at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple
I remembered the power of a new or unexpected sensation
and when I took off my sandals and entered the temple,
The moment my bare feet hit the tile I felt vulnerable and I wanted to cry.
It reminded me of acting school in New York.

The summer my uncle died I felt myself wanting to embrace my age
my place my past and my present.
I gave my first public speech, something I wrote from my heart of hearts
It was the first time I've shared something for the public
It just happened to be his funeral.

The summer my uncle died I learned I hate the term "passed away".
"Died" seems better but "transitioned" feels best.

The summer my uncle died I started to really see what family is,
the roles we play, the changing of the roles, the passing of the torch
and that death and birth are part of the same whole.
I stopped seeing borders.
I learned to start listening harder.  To my heart.  To my soul.

I learned.  That summer.

The summer my uncle died was a summer of animals.
My dog, my new cat.  My bird and my frog.
Llamas, what museums held, and on every walk something new.
A giant wounded butterfly we moved out of the street
A family of ducks or a family of quails.
Sheep at the farm nearby.
Lizards and rabbits and birds and a snake.
And the squirrel.
The dark brown baby squirrel in the same spot, twice,
that walked along the top of the fence beside me.
Looking at me.  Making sounds.  Communicating something to me.
The squirrel I was sure was some kind of omen
and the squirrel I went back to see multiple times.
I even quietly called for it.

The summer my uncle died I felt sick.
I kept dreaming I was sick.
That my brain was swelling
That blood was coming out of my eyes.
That something was wrong with me.

The summer my uncle died was also the summer of family.
And goodbyes.
Six people I knew moved.  Six.  To various degrees of knowing.
Friends, acquaintances, all people who'd passed through my life in their way.
All gone, all the same.
I silently started saying my goodbyes to myself.
To who I had been and secretly marking certain events as the last time.
For me.  For awhile.
But there were grandparents and nature and cousins and aunts and uncles and parents
and husband and climbing mountains.
And there was reading.  Reading everything I could get my hands on.

That was that summer I accidentally learned everything.

Tweet me: @DeenaMarie


  1. The summer my brother died, I accidentally learned things too. Truths, heartbreak, pain, beauty, love. Proud of you my daughter, I love you. Mom

  2. This is beautiful the way you express your feelings. Love you so much. Dad

  3. I believe that both my grandfather and later, his sister, visited as owls after they transitioned. I never see owls near my home, but there they were - years and years apart - but both within a week of life's end.
    That little squirrel ... that's your uncle.
    PS at your suggestion I read Tell the Wolves I'm Home and now I cannot get it out of my head. I was 16 in 1986. I was graduating early from high school. I was a lot like Greta.