I still remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember the hour, the tears, the smells, and the regret. It’s hard to believe that it has been thirteen years today.
I was eleven, young, naive, and innocent. My only worry was what boy do I like this week and did I stuff my bra enough. I didn’t have an understanding of the evils of this world, let alone how death works. In my mind, I believed that one loses their grandparents first and then down the list. Little did I know that life was going to throw me a surprise I wish I never received.
My uncle and I were close. We were 13 years apart but he made me laugh like no other. He loved me and I loved him. He understood me and I wanted to be near him every second that I could get. He had a tattoo of my name on his foot and I remember every time I’d see it, my heart would smile and reassure me of the love he had for his niece. I have many tender memories of time shared together but not enough. Not enough.
I miss him.
We spent his twenty-fifth birthday together and I remember my mom wanting to surprise him badly. We bought him a cake, several candles, and gifts. We anxiously awaited his arrival and when he finally did, we turned off the lights and prepared for “SURPRISE!” My uncle greeted us with laughs and yelling at us. We never got the opportunity to surprise him because he had confessed that we left the kitchen window open and he saw everything. It was the greatest moment I remember of my uncle; he walking through our front door yelling at us for lack of preparation.
I miss him.
That night went by quickly. We opened gifts; I hugged him many times, and reminded him of how awesome he was. There was so much going on that I knocked out on the couch with my head comfortably resting on his lap. The last I recall of that evening was being woken up with a “Good-bye Frances, I love you” from my uncle as he walked out of the house. I should’ve stood up and hugged my uncle. I wish I would’ve yelled back that I loved him. I could’ve. I should’ve. Why didn’t I? Why did I choose to fall back asleep? That decision was one that I regretted for many years.
Five days after the celebration, it was two in the morning and the phone in the other room kept ringing. At the time, my grandma lived with us and she answered. Moments later, I heard her scurrying to get my mom and dad. I asked what was going on but my mom simply closed my door, which was ajar, and told me to go back to sleep. I did.
Seven hours later and my mom is waking me up. When I open my eyes, all I remember was her telling me that my uncle is having stomach surgery and that she needs to drop my brother and me off at a family friend’s house. I jumped out of bed and proceeded to brush my teeth. I remember looking at my reflection and the thought did he die? My eyes filled with tears just at the thought of losing him. I told myself to stop worrying like that and I ran to the living room to search for answers. I saw my baby brother coloring so I decided to join him, for whatever reason. As we sat there, my father walked up to me as broken as I’ve ever seen my him, whose exterior is that of a tough, hard man. All I heard was, “I have to tell you something, your uncle was shot this morning and he didn’t make it.”
I went numb.
Shock. I was blank. My heart fell to the ground, I felt it leap out of my body and just lay there. I got up as calm as I could. Ran to the couch, turned on the news and waited for the news to tell me something. As if I had predicted it, the news reporter reported the story. “…A quarrel…fatal shooting of Luis Daniel Colon…” I sobbed. I sobbed. I sobbed. Everything after that is a blur.
Everything I thought was a lie. Things like that can happen. I refuse to get into the details any more. I have forgiven the two parties involved in my uncle’s death, including the shooter. He took the life of a man, a good man, and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life. It’s been thirteen years today and no one has been arrested. The shooter fled and he’s lived a life for thirteen years. I am sad for my grandmother who still bears the desire to see justice served. I am sad for my family, my dad, who’s had a piece of them taken away, unexpectedly.
I miss him so much. I wonder what kind of grown adult he’d be now. I wonder if we would laugh off all of the mistakes we’ve both made. I am comforted by the fact that I have an angel looking down on me. I’ve had to let go of the fact that I never got an opportunity to say good-bye to him. For so long I wanted that, badly. Now, I am just thankful that I knew him and got to spend time with him. I know I will see him one day and I look forward to that, very much.