It snowed early that year, and those who gathered at the church hall were dressed to keep out the cold, mumbling about the weather, and helping themselves to warm beverages. Seems deaths come in threes, and this was the third of our family members we’d buried in as many months.
“Where’s Uncle Charles?” I asked my mother, taking inventory of those present.
“He’s up north hunting. Couldn’t make it back.”
He’ll be sorry to miss this, I think to myself. It was his oldest brother being buried after all. I worked my way around the room, greeting relatives and swapping stories, until a sudden gust from the doorway made me turn.
Stepping in out of the cold was Uncle Charles, who smiled and winked at me across the room, as he shook the snow off his coat and stamped his boots. He looked unusually dapper, with a smart fedora and long wool coat. Hardly hunting gear.
I wrapped up my conversation and pushed through the crowd to greet a favourite uncle, now nowhere in sight.
“Nice to see Charles made it,” I mentioned to my mother later. “Although, I don’t know where he went.”
“Charles didn’t come. I told you, he’s snowed in up north.”
“But he did. I saw him.”
“What was he wearing?”
I explained. “I’d know him anywhere Mom,” I plead my case, ” by the glint in his eye and that unmistakable moustache.”
“My brother Charles hasn’t sported a moustache in years. You’re describing my Dad. A couple of others said they saw him too. Of course he’d be here for his first born’s funeral.”
My mother’s father. A man I’d never met. A man who died the year before I was born.