"Matt, you sure have gotten fat."
The aforementioned words were said to me by my uncle Joe, during one of the many pre-Christmas dinners that used to be an annual occurrence at uncle Paul and aunt Vilda's house. I remember sitting at the long dining table, surrounded by family, many of whom I only saw at these gatherings. The door opened and in walked Joe, moving fast as he always did, and that's when he stopped, stared, and said those words to me.
Now, I'm not saying that I wasn't slightly wounded by his remark. Weight's been a struggle for me since the middle school years and, yes, I'd put on a few pounds since the last time he'd seen me. But it was hard to be mad at Joe. He had a way about him. Almost always a twinkle in his eyes. It's true that I have different opinions of my dad's several brothers, but it can be said that Joe was the only one who I thought of as cool. He just was.
Joe's been gone for twenty-two years, although he still lives on, vibrantly, in memory. I remember him regularly coming over to the small house on Draper St. that mom, dad and I shared, how nice he always seemed, and can still remember the image of him sitting at our kitchen table, talking with my dad, like a snapshot of the mind. Mom still tells me stories of when her and my dad, along with Joe and his wife, Dee, used to take trips together, and how fast Joe would drive.
You may be thinking, 'Cute memories, Matt, but why are you writing about your uncle Joe now?' The reason is I dreamt about him last night. In fact, Joe enters my dreams at least once or twice a year, always in the same scenario: I'm out at a restaurant somewhere, and see some of my (living) uncles, and there Joe is, chatting away with them. Typically, I'll smile and/or wave at my other uncles, but never to Joe, who often has his back to me. Truthfully, I'm always surprised to see him there.
Last night was different. I got up, walked over to my uncles, and said hello, specifically, to Joe. "Hi, Matt! How you doing?" said Joe cheerfully, his hand outstretched for me to shake, which I did. We made small talk, and he still had that twinkle in his eyes. In an odd creation of my mind, Joe said he was about to purchase a GMC Denali (a vehicle not even around when he was alive). I told him I hoped the purchase went well.
Later, as the dream was coming to an end, I looked out the restaurant window and saw a white GMC Denali driving away. "Bye, uncle Joe," I said quietly.