One of the drawbacks of getting older is that one has to get used to the experience of losing various family members to death.
I just got an e-mail message from Sue Lawrence, a friend of my mother's. Sue told me that my mother's brother, Bob, had gone to be with Jesus on Sunday night, after a long battle with cancer.
Of all of my uncles, aunts and cousins, Uncle Bob and his family were the people to whom I felt the closest when I was growing up. When I was a child, I always looked forward to our visits to St. Louis so that we could spend time with Bob and his family.
Often, Aunt Sue, my grandmother and my mother would take me, my younger brother Matt, my cousin Karen and my younger cousin Cindy to places such as the St. Louis Zoo (a perennial favorite) or the Planetarium (just a few blocks north of my grandparents' house on Lawn Avenue). Often, we stayed with our grandparents, but there were also some occasions when we stayed for considerable lengths of time with Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue in their home in Kirkwood. They always did their best to make us feel welcome in their home. I still have fond memories of climbing the tree in their front yard.
I didn't see Uncle Bob as often as I saw Aunt Sue, Karen or Cindy, because Bob was usually on call, since he was a physician with a thriving medical practice. But I felt close to him nevertheless. He was a gentle man with a winning smile. In some ways, he was like a second father to me. He and my father seemed to get along fairly well. I remember a number of evenings when we would all get together in their family room at the end of the day and play board games such as Monopoly or Yahtzee! before going to bed.
During recent years, my financial situation has made it impossible for me to travel as often as I would have liked. I haven't even visited Mother very many times in her home in Springfield, Missouri. So I haven't been able to visit Uncle Bob and his family in Kirkwood, the way I would have liked to do. That made me feel guilty, particularly inasmuch as Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue helped me substantially on occasions when I needed financial help.
Regarding the deep friendship which I once had with my cousin Karen, it saddens me to say that we grew far apart after we had both become adults. I have hopes that I will be able to visit with her and with the rest of the remaining members of the family at some point in the future. But I doubt that I will be able to attend Uncle Bob's funeral, on account of my current tenuous financial situation.