One of my fondest memories of my uncle was standing in his kitchen, drinking white wine (yes, me drinking white wine), getting pissed while being given some lessons on Excel tips and tricks.
One time, I had just had my car washed, and the guys at the car wash had washed my engine bay, but as I left, I could not get my Mazda 323 above 40 kph. I thought something was seriously wrong.
“Oh crap”, I though. “What now! “
I went around to Uncle Keith’s placed, knocked on the door and explained the issue. Thinking that I was going to have major repairs done…but, he came outside and asked me to open the bonnet.
He opened the distributor cap, dried it out, and voila! Problem solved. Water had got in and was causing the problem. That was who he was. Simple, technical, but helpful!
When I first moved to Cape Town, I did not have any friends to go out with, so, as an 18-year old, I took my cousins Monica and Justin out for the evening – a 13 and 11-year old.
Hey, I was being a good “big cousin”!
We grabbed a bite, went to play putt-putt and enjoy the sites of the city. Realizing we were running behind time, we raced home, only for Uncle Keith to open the door and sternly tell his young 18-year old nephew that the time we returned home was not appropriate for young children – my bad!
Uncle Keith was always that uncle that would tell you like it is, but also was not afraid to put his arm around your shoulders when things were not so happy, tell you to ignore things and buck up, “the world is not so bad!”
My uncle was the youngest of three children, with my Dad being the oldest and the Aunty Margie the middle child. They gave my uncle hell at times but he gave back as good as he got.
Family braai’s were fun most of the time, with the three of them reminiscing of good old times. Especially when my Ouma (their mom) was around. That old lady would always tell a story of a train ride in which a gentleman exposed himself and they would always tease her that every time she told the story, “IT” would get bigger!
He was a doting father that – to me – was always there for his kids. No matter what went on, Uncle Keith was there to sooth, pick up the pieces and console his children with empathy. But that is what I saw!
He was a loving husband. Yes, couples always go through patches, and I remember fond times of when he and Aunty Julie would have a “disagreement” about something – the eye-daggers would fly. But, always, the love was there and they would dance, kiss and show the love that all couples would only dream of!
I never got to spend more time with my uncle than I would have liked – and that is on my shoulders – but when I did, I always felt a closeness that will stay with me for all time.
My dad and I – like most children – have difficult times – but when my dad suffered a stroke at the end of 2020, it woke me up to the fact that despite foibles, it was important to be there for our parents. Time is precious!!!
With my dad in hospital and then the rehabilitation clinic, I had a conversation with Uncle Keith on the phone about what was happening. And I will never forget the words he spoke to me!
“Thank you for every thing you are doing, you really are a good son!” That broke me, because I realized that I had not been a good son! Families deserve so much more from their children!
But that was Uncle Keith. Never to miss a beat, never to mince his words, always calling a spade a spade.
Earlier this year, the news came that Uncle Keith had cancer. His demise (I hate that word when it comes to health) was quick. A few months ago he looked fine.
I got a message from my mom earlier in the week that Uncle Keith’s doctors had said that there was nothing more they could do for him and that they had given him only a few weeks.
As life would have it – no, work would have it – I did not get the chance to go see him during the working week. So on Saturday 30 October 2021, after making a trip to the dump to go and offload garden cuttings, I trundled home, had a shower and took a trip to go and see my uncle. To say the last goodbyes.
I arrived at the hospital shortly before 11am, my Aunty Julie and his son, Justin, were at his bedside. It brought back memories of my father-in-law!
I did not want to interrupt. I knew when I saw him that the little time left is important for the family. Justin allowed me some time at Uncle Keith’s bedside. I held his hand.
Thank you Justin for allowing me this small precious moment with your dad!
Uncle Keith was getting agitated. He kept wanting to take his oxygen mask off. I thought that it was his “call a spade-a-spade” moment of saying enough is enough.
Justin wanted to go have a smoke, to just unwind. But, like a hand from above, he decided not to. He said he would rather stay. He gave me one last moment with my uncle.
I held his hand, kissed his clammy forehead, and said, “Thank you for everything you did for your family. I love you.”
He left us an hour later.
Saying goodbye to a loved one is one of the most difficult things in life, but being afforded the opportunity to say that goodbye is most important.
I am happy that I got the chance to say goodbye. I am happy that I got to know the man that had an influence on my life. I am glad that I knew my Uncle Keith.
Aunty Julie, Justin and Monica (along with Inga) will miss him terribly, and so will Aunty Margie and my dad.
But don’t be sad. Be glad that you knew him, Be glad that you got to love him. Be glad that his pain is over.
And remember, time is limited, so enjoy whatever time you have with your loved ones, and make it count, because you never know when it will be gone!
**Thank you Aunty Julie, Monica, Justin, Aunty Margie for letting me steal some photo’s from Facebook.