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?