A Death in The Family

This morning the phone rang at 5:20.  I didn’t wake up when it rang (it was on silent), but a few minutes later, woke up and saw the notification. I knew, as soon as I saw who it was, it was bad news. I had a pretty good idea I knew what it was, too.  As there was no sense in putting it off, I returned the call.
My uncle, Michael Johnston, passed away this morning after a month-long battle with cancer.  He’d kept it from all but the closest of friends and family.
Despite having pictures of Michael holding me when I was a baby, I’ve only known him about seven years, and if I’m being truthful, not well. I first found him in 2008 after years of searching, and spoke to him shortly afterward. We met a couple of years later, as he was in California visiting relatives, so we met halfway and spent several hours talking face to face.
We didn’t speak on the phone much–I guess neither of us really like talking on the phone–but we traded emails and Facebook messages.
I didn’t know him well at all–but he was important to me, as a link to my father’s family. I’ve never been able to shrug off the fact that my dad wasn’t in my life, especially after his death, and MJ was a bright spot in an otherwise messy and often painful mess of feelings about family. He gave me some much-needed information about where my dad came from and what he was like, both as a kid and as an adult. It wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad, either.
I didn’t know him well–but I loved him. We had a lot in common, from our taciturn manner to our love of bacon, and even our love of music, though he pursued that rather more assiduously than I did.
Michael had a great voice, and I still play his music often.
I always meant to work harder at keeping in touch. Now it’s too late. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Published by Michael R. Johnston

Father of an eighth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Fifty years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA

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