I do not have any photos of my uncle to illustrate this post, but I don't really need one.His image is very clear in my mind and heart. He was so special to me, I do not have to look at his picture to remember all the moments we spent together.
Despite the family ties, we only became close when I was about 11. I went to his house for a visit and stayed for the whole holidays.
My uncle was a controversial guy.
He never claimed to be a saint, never pretended to be one, never expected people to think of him as one.
My uncle drank too much. He gambled. He was a night club owner ( not the family going kind). My uncle had lovers. He encouraged his nephews to go out with prostitutes. He did whatever he wanted and encouraged others to do the same.
And with all the transgressions, and misbehavior, he had the biggest heart in the world. He took care of everyone around him. He gave jobs to however came to him asking for help. he shared his love, his money and his affection.
My uncle has left a huge mark in my life. He showed me you can be a good, caring person without playing by the rules.
My cousing and I, (elder son of Uncle Nelson), were sweethearts. We were 11, 12 years old and we had this amazing bond. We did everything together, whenever we could.
My aunts were getting worried, we were getting "too close". That could not be good. Boys and girls need to keep a safe distance.
My uncle would simply put us in his car and take us to work with him, claiming he needed help. At the restaurant, he would give us his best table, and just let us pretend to be customers. i never drunk so many fruit cocktails. I felt I was the most important person in the world, and Sandro and I had a break from everyone else. It was magic.
In our home town, Lindoia, he would give us his car keys. My grandma went crazy everytime he did it, but he would just laugh, say something sweet to her and go back inside.
My grandma and aunties begged me to stop spending time with him, and I never listened.
In one of our car adventures, we got caught by the police and scorted home.
My uncle gave us a lecture in front of the authority, told him we took the key while he was sleeping.
The sheriff turned around, he threw the key back to Sandro with a very specific recommendation:
- I hope you two idiots learnt your lesson. Don't ever come home scorted by the police again...
We were not even 13 yet.
He took me to Mardi Grass, he left us swim at night. Uncle nelson let us do whatever we wanted to do, as long as we were happy, it was fine by him!
We spent countless nights playing cards, jumping up and down on his sofas, we made a mess in the house, but he never told us off, there was never a frown. If we were having fun, we were doing what we were supposed to.
The lifestyle he chose, finally caught up with him and he lost his money, his business, his wife.One day he was the boss, the next he had nothing.
After I grew up, I have always tried to keep the connection, I always tried to track him down and visit him in the restaurants he was working for.
With a very sharp memory, he remembered the name of those who went to his restaurant, he made a point of chatting with every person who came to his stablishment.
Once I took about 12 people to his restaurant for dinner. Months later, one of these friends went back to the place. As soon as my uncle saw him, he asked:
- Are you still a vegetarian?
I'm sure lots of people are mourning his departure today. I am sure he left his mark in many lives, not only mine.
Uncle, rest in peace. I will love you forever ...