10 November 2011

For Bob

As a warning - I'm not really sure what the purpose of this particular post is. Usually I have some sort of goal or idea I'm focused on.

Today's a little different. It's November. This year marks another anniversary since the death of my uncle way back when I was in junior high. Twelve years.

To be honest, it isn't something I think about all that often. Bob and I didn't have a terribly formal or frequent relationship. I didn't know anything about his personal life and only really remember seeing him two or three times in my life, even though I know it was more than that in actuality. I remember the last time I saw him the Christmas before he died - how excited I was, and how excited he was, to see us. There's a great picture I have of him carrying me and one or two of my cousins all at once. I remember going home that night and feeling so terribly lucky to have an uncle as cool and fun as Bob.

I also remember how still my house seemed the night I came home from a babysitting job just under a year later. It was silent. But not silent because my younger siblings were sleeping - that awful slow motion type of silence. I remember my parents coming downstairs from their bedroom and my dad looking about twenty years older than I thought of him as being. I'd never seen him like that before. It was jarring. Dad never lost control like that - at least not to grief.

I remember going out to the funeral and gradually learning bits and pieces about what had really happened, according to my cousin, at least, who had either heard it from her parents (who didn't censor as much as mine) or made it up for shock value (both of which are very possible.) I remember feeling totally unsure of how to respond to everything, feeling in a kind of limbo because everyone around me was more sad than I was and feeling pressure to do. . .something about it.

In the years that have followed since Bob's death I've learned more about him. He was Bipolar - manic depressant, they call it. Active and reckless, never quite settling down. High on life one day and contemplating suicide the next. He was an avid sportsman and photographer - when I think of Bob, I think of the outdoors. It's kind of laughable to think of him at a cubicle, actually. In my mind, I don't ever picture Bob still. I think he'd be bored by it.

When I was younger I took up photography and my dad let me use Bob's camera. It was a beautiful piece of machinery that camera, and I took care of it like it was sacred and only gave it up last year when I could finally afford a digital camera that could perform as well as the old film one did. Every time I used the old one - and when I use the new one too - I feel like I'm stepping in where my uncle left off. This imaginary relationship I've built with him since his death that I never had with him in life always feels so close when I'm taking pictures. Maybe it is all in my head. But I think he'd like to know that I take pictures for him.

That wasn't all I inherited from Bob, though. I don't suffer from depression the way that he did by a long shot - but there are days every month or so, like yesterday, where I get a glimpse of understanding. Days when I have to step back from the lethargy and despair and recognize that, logically, nothing in the day has been that despair worthy. Days when I force my way through knowing that, for me at least, the next day will be better, because my "dark days" don't last nearly as long, or come nearly as often.

I don't think Bob would be, or is, happy to know that the legacy of depression still runs in the veins of my family. But I do think he would be happy to know that since his death, we have been able to put a name to it, and that makes it easier to fight. I know, now, how suicide rips at a family - but I also know the spiritual strength and care from the Lord that does come when tragedy strikes so unexpectedly. It is an awful way to gain that understanding, but I am glad that I have it.

So, Bob - this November as I spend Thanksgiving with my own brother and your parents, I want you to know that I am grateful for you. Because your memory has inspired me to fight. To not give in when days are hard. To get outside more and tell my family I love them more and - most of all - to love myself enough to tackle my weaknesses honestly and confidently.

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