I have always associated different places with smells. Maybe my nose is more sensitive or maybe for whatever reason my brain just seems to associate memories more with smell than one of my other senses. For example, my children’s room and my parent’s home have certain smells that I always associate them with.
Some smells were long forgotten until they were reawaken. This is what happened when I went into my Uncle’s home yesterday. It was also the home to his parents, my Grandma and Grandpap Heidenreich. It was the home my Dad grew up in and most often simply referred to as “the house.” I guess I had forgotten the smell, but was quickly reminded when I walked though the door. It was warm and nostalgic. Uncle hadn’t changed too many things in the house. The orange chair that he would sit in was now torn and ragged, but still used. The bowl he kept for his pretzels next to his chair is exactly the same one when I was a child. The candy bowls that sat on the shelf that must be a perquisite for every Grandparents home. The dishes were the same and the bench and kitchen table that I fondly remember from my childhood. The pencil sharpener screwed into the wall on the stairs going to the basement. We walked through the house remembering. The house had a basement that I played in with my cousins. There was a coal cellar and a place where you cleaned soot out. My Grandpap was an excellent carpenter and there were cedar lined closets that he built in the basement. I was grateful to have had the chance to walk through the house one last time and remember.
My Uncle Chaz died on August 12. My Dad and Aunt were with him when he passed peacefully. He was my Godfather and referred to as “Uncle” by his nieces and nephews. He was an extraordinarily religious man adhering to the Latin Mass and ultra conservative religious and political ideals. His obsession was books. When I say he owned a lot of books, it really is an understatement. He had purchased two additional houses to hold his “collection.” There were books on every subject and every story. While over the last decade he began to part with his collection (and his two book houses), if we estimate correctly he still had 10,000+ books. His heart was kind and he loved his family. He was always there to offer a prayer for your intention. He never married nor had children of his own. He was able to travel to Rome and was proud of his German heritage. One funny story is how he brought a ticking alarm clock in his carry on bag when he went to Rome. Security didn’t like to hear something ticking inside a piece of luggage!
Every year he and his sister would journey to Texas for a visit. Making an effort to stay connected is something I appreciated too. He was here for Cara’s Baptism, which he loved being a part of. We had Sean baptized in Pittsburgh and I know it meant a lot to him to be able to be there. He always greeted us with a “hello hello hello” and had gifts of books for each of us.
The passing of someone who has been a part of your entire life leaves a little bit of sadness inside of me. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on life and the past. And continue to wonder about the future and what changes I might make in my life. While I could not stay for the funeral, I was glad that I had the chance to say good bye and see family and friends.
auf Wiedersehen Uncle. Heaven has one more resident and it is a great comfort to know you are up there.