Conversations With My Uncle

My Great-Uncle J is sitting at the top of my Aunt's steps, I can see him through the old kitchen door that leads to the garden lined with fruit trees and speckled sparrows.  The door is ajar, allowing the crisp morning mist to seep inside the house, and he's already rolling tobacco into a flimsy piece of rice paper.  It could be his third, or possibly his fourth for the day, more likely his fifth or sixth, but no-one reprimands him.  Not these days.  

"Good morning!"  He smiles casually.  
"Morning.  You're up early."  
"Couldn't sleep again?"
He closes his eyes, ignoring my question, choosing instead to fiddle with the rice paper, sealing the open edge with a flick of his tongue before drawing it across his nose, relishing the pungent aroma of the tobacco.  He smiles again, satisfied with his handiwork.
I pad across the kitchen tiles, pulling open drawers, cupboards, busily preparing breakfast before my Aunt rises.  After a few minutes, I walk over to him. 
"Can I ask you a question Uncle J?"
Another lazy smile.  He knows my question; it's always the same.
"Do you have any regrets?"  I think about my Uncle J and his friends, twenty years old, ready to die in foreign waters where deserts meet beaches and no-one speaks English; a world away from his home in the warm Pacific Isles.  Was it all worth it?
"No regrets, dear Tiggy."  Tiggy.  That's his nickname for me.
He cocks his head, his brown eyes sad and wistful, looking through me, beyond my shoulder to the window where my Aunt's knick-knacks clutter the sill.
"Tea?"  I move off towards the stove, reaching for the old enamel kettle.
"Sure, tea sounds nice."  He says brightly, but I know when I turn around he won't be there.  He never is.  

Conversations with my Uncle © 2010 T.Loto. All rights reserved.
Photocredit via we heart it

A/N: Tomorrow is November 11, Armistice Day, and this weekend is Remembrance Sunday.  This snippet is a tribute to my Great Uncle J, a young Private in the NZ Medical Corps who died in WWII, somewhere in the waters between Syria and Alexandria.

Do you have family members who inspire you?


  1. What a beautiful and thoughtful piece of writing Talei. It made me feel sad and yet brought a smile to my face. Beautiful!

  2. This is such a wonderful way to remember him! I felt like I was there--the details you evoke are so powerful.

  3. Talei, this is a lovely tribute to your uncle. I'm sure he's giving you that lazy smile for your beautiful and caring words. Love is powerful.

  4. Yes I do! In the States, we call it Veterans' Day. It's also my birthday. I have a special post about my grandfather and grandmother-in-law, both heroes of WWII (in my book), going up tomorrow.

    This piece about your uncle is lovely.

  5. Talei, this is so moving especially when I realize he is no more with us.

  6. Ann, thank you for your kind words. I'm very happy that you enjoyed it. ;)

    Meredith, you're so generous, I feel honoured. Thank you too!;)

    Carol, he did have an amazing smile from the photo's I've seen. ;)

    Genie, Happy birthday, wow its a special day alright. I look forward to reading your post tomorrow. ;)

    Joanna, thank you dear, it's amazing where we find inspiration for stories. ;)

  7. Great post. Actually all of my grandparents were pretty remarkable. There are definitely stories there I'd like to write someday

  8. Jolene, thanks! ;) Grandparents are pretty remarkable. I didn't see mine often as we lived in different countries, but I was lucky to have quite a few Great Aunts who loved to tell us stories. ;-)

  9. This touched me, Talei. Reading about the way your uncle used to roll a cigarette bought back floods of memory of my granddad, we called him big papa. I remember now that he did the same thing.
    It was lovely to meet Uncle Joe, and thanks for the memory.

  10. That was such a lovely piece and the ending said so much. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Talei - I was so caught up in your piece that I thought it was the beginning of a book. One that I would really love to read more of. It was fabulous. It's great reading your posts but it's truly a gift when we get to read the writing of our blog friends, so thank you so much for sharing; we're all the richer for it.

  12. This was so beautiful and evocative, thank you for sharing!

  13. Oh this gave me chills. Bless you for remembering your dear young uncle who fought valiantly, and all the soldiers who fight for freedom around the world.

  14. Wow. This is gorgeous and thoughtful and a great way to honor him. I'm glad to have read this

  15. Beautiful snippet, and what a great way to remember. Thank you.

  16. This piece is beautiful. An amazing tribute.

  17. Shellie, thank you. I'm so glad it bought some memories back. ;)

    Lydia, you're welcome, thank you too.

    Elissa, thank you for such wonderful compliments. You're right, its great to read each others writing and share these stories. ;)

    Kelly, you're so kind, glad you enjoyed. Thank you too!

    KarenG, ;) thank you dear lady, there's so many others who fought and died. We should always remember those souls and their families too.

    Melissa, thank you for such lovely comments too. It's an honour to share this piece with everyone.

    Talli, thank you so much! Gosh, I'm feeling very lush with the praise tonight. ;)

    Lynda, thank you too! I'm so happy so many of my writerly friends have enjoyed this piece. ;)

  18. WOW Talei,
    Your writing was quietly beautiful. A shiver went through my body at the end. I sat still for a moment and then I began to cry. After the post I wrote this morning I felt special because my Father came home but terribly sad because I saw so many young men came home in a box. In my small town we would gather at the granite court house and say good by to the busloads of young men taking off for basic training. Happy smiling faces stepping into the unknown. I'd help serve coffee and doughnuts. I was young, 11 to 14 but the reality in that war made us grow up fast. Each time another star would go up in the window of a home, I'd scream and carry on because it seemed so unfair. Your Uncle would be only a little older than I am, had he returned. Even after 70 years, that whole war is still etched in my memory. Thank you for your poignant post. And thanks for stopping by and leaving a warm comment.

  19. Misty eyes because so many and so much loss, feelings of anger because so many and so much lost.

    Talei, I think you should meet with people that film "shorts" for film festivals. This post plays in my mind like a film. Moving, beautiful, sad, love and pride - you have just about touched it all. This could even be the beginning of a film before the flashback.

  20. Manzanita,

    I admire how your experiences of growing up with the war, you must have seen so many changes and yes, a lot of heartbreak, I can't imagine how that must have been for you. The saying 'what doesn't break us, can only make us stronger' is true.

    Two years ago, I was elated to find my Great Uncles name in the Commonwealth War Graves site. I am very proud to say his name is on the honours wall in El Alamein war cemetery, outside of Alexandria in Egypt. Would you believe I only found out this info the day before I flew out to Hurghada and Cairo, and my travel agent could not accommodate a last minute change. So close eh? The good news is I am planning a trip to El Alamein next year to pay tribute in person to my Uncle. It will be a happy pilgrimage for our family to see at least some of the land we think he may have seen before he died.

    Thanks so much for your lovely comments and thoughts. ;)

  21. Mya,

    Thank you dear lady for your wonderful compliments! I'm really rapt with your kind words. I would love to write a film script, that would be amazing! I'm working to finish my first proper MS firstly though but of course, this story is one I will keep on my list of projects. ;) xx

  22. Beautifully captured emotions. Some topics don't need a lot of words to convey the depth of meaning.

    This shows how attached you are to each other also.


  23. A great tribute and a beautifully told story!


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