My dad’s family is scattered all over the world. Germany, England, Cyprus, Canada and elsewhere. His oldest brother’s family lives in California, so of all the uncles and cousins across the world, my Uncle Heraier and his family are the ones I got to know best. I spent time in their home in Los Angeles, where Aunt Arek fed us heartily literally every moment of our visits. I got to know my cousins, Zaareh and Ani. I have been known to joke that I would have married Zaareh if he wasn’t already family. He is just that good a guy. And my cousin Ani is a lot of what I want to be – intelligent, thoughtful, and a patient mother of two gorgeous children. And she has this beautiful curly hair that I have coveted always. They are a wonderful family.
Yesterday I learned that Uncle Heraier passed away. He has been sick for a while, so his death wasn’t altogether unexpected, but it was still a surprise. As the eldest brother on my father’s side, he held a special place in my family’s heart. And as the uncle who wrote me letters, made me laugh, and gave me sweet hugs each time he patted the seat next to him, inviting me to come sit with him, he held a very special place in mine.
This is a picture I took with my Uncle Heraier during his last visit to Texas in 2007.
When he laughed, his eyes shut almost completely. And he laughed a lot. He had a wonderful laugh. He also had a wonderful way of teasing me about my Armenian. I butcher the language pretty badly, but he appreciated the effort and took every opportunity to joke with my about my word usage or phrase-ology. But he never laughed harshly, and he followed every joke by kissing me on the eyes. (I know that sounds weird, but I think kissing someone on the eyes must be an Armenian thing. My dad does it too.)
I regret not having visited Uncle Heraier during his final months. I knew he wasn’t well and told myself again and again that I needed to go visit, but I failed to do that. And for that, Uncle Heraier, I am so terribly sorry.
I trust he is well now. I trust he is laughing with those around him. And I trust that we will see him again one day. He’ll be seated drinking tea, and he will look me in the eye and pat the seat next to him. Until then, I’ll treasure his family, his letters, and the pictures I have of him. Especially this one: