A belated farewell

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When I was a kid, I thought my Uncle Ron’s manner was severe and reserved. I wasn’t perceptive enough at a young age to really get sarcasm and dry wit. I know now that Ron was one of the most intelligent people with whom I ever had the good fortune to cross paths.

When Ron died, he was 72 years old. Still plenty of life and vitality left in him. He’d had a bit of a struggle with diabetes, but a new diet and new meds had him up and about, living his life with more vigour than I expected. It was tragic, then, when he was driving about one day and his car was struck by another vehicle. He was released from the hospital soon after, but his internal injuries went undetected. He passed away a week after the accident.

One of the last times I saw Ron was at another uncle’s birthday extravaganza in Calgary. He brought with him my aunt — a darling woman whom I adore — and his fabulous sarcasm. This was a fancy party, you see, and the cream of the entertainment industry’s crop was in attendance. So naturally, some members of my family felt out of place. We schmoozed and laughed, but Ron kept it real, pointing out that these were, after all, just people, and “My god, can you believe how much they’re eating? Some of them can’t even use their cutlery properly,” he said with a hilarious Yoda-like laugh.

This was part of Ron’s charm. Always teasing people, making inappropriate comments. He and my mother got along the best, since Mum always felt out of place when it came to Dad’s family. I think Ron felt the same way — a bit of an outsider. Not superior, not inferior, just cut from a different cloth.

Ron always called me and my brothers “the professors.” When we’d visit, he’d happen upon us and in his signature drawl say, “Well hello professors! Are you behaving yourselves or driving your parents crazy?” I always thought it was weird. I was a kid, not a professor! When I asked him, probably about a year ago, why he called us professors, he said it was because we were smart boys, “even if you were big pains in the ass.”

My fondest memory of Ron, though, was at my parents’ 25th anniversary party. We were having a huge backyard barbecue, and my Oma, who was already quite old and a bit senile, asked someone to get her a gin and tonic. Ron loved that, and declared, “Well, granny’s getting pissed tonight.” He proceeded to titter for about a minute while Oma tried to figure out who said what and why everyone was laughing. This, to me, was an awakening. Here was this guy, super smart, very successful, and just a lover of wit. He was a sharp business man, and a stalwart part of the Jewish community in Edmonton. He owned several businesses, and stayed involved in the community long after his retirement. In spite of my original perception of his severe manner, Ron was truly one of the warmest, kindest, and most intelligent people I’ve ever had in my life.

Uncle Ron’s been gone since the fall, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him, and how I wished I’d taken more time to talk with him, collect his thoughts on everything and anything, and just spend more time with him. These are always the regrets we trot out when someone dies, but I absolutely feel like I missed out on something great, especially now that I’m older and closer to being on par with his fierce intellect. The day he died, I went for dinner with my little brother and sister-in-law. We sat mostly in silence, occasionally piping up with a memory, thought, or comment about him.What can you say about someone whose impact was so significant? Words aren’t adequate to convey experiences and feelings.

We still talk about Ron, and I’m sure we’ll do so for years. He was a character. I’m grateful to have been a part of his life, and so glad he was a part of mine.

Uncle Ron passed away on September 8, 2008.

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