Friday, February 21, 2014

Uncle Mickey

As you know, my grandfather has been in the hospital for a little while now. So when my mother told me on the phone that she was going to visit me to deliver something that I didn't absolutely need, the thought crossed my mind that she was coming to tell me in person that something had happened to her father while in the hospital.

What she and my father came to tell me turned out to be, from my perspective, much worse. Firstly I should clarify that I love my grandfather and I will be terribly upset when his time comes, but I've already started to come to terms with the fact that his time is running out, and he hasn't had nearly as huge of an impact on my life as my uncle did.

Just like that, past tense.

My parents came to tell me that my uncle, Michael "Mickey" Matejka, died suddenly and seemingly peacefully in his home on Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Uncle Mickey was an amazing guy. He never asked for anything and yet he deserved so much. He was so giving that he wouldn't let us pay for his birthday dinner when we would go out to celebrate every year, he instead insisted that he pay for everyone's dinner for his own birthday.

I have nothing but fond memories of Uncle Mickey. From kindergarten through 8th grade he would pick my brother and I up from school on Thursdays. Even through high school he would take us out for ice cream, and in the summer he would still find time to see us every week to take us out to a movie and ice cream or lunch.

He always asked the waitresses/waiter if they were in school. He always tipped better if they were.

One of my fondest memories of him is when, on June 26th 2003, he took me to Summerfest. I'd been to Summerfest just about every year as far back as I can remember, but this was the first and only time that it was just the two of us. We arrived early, and spent the day walking around listening to new bands, Peter Gabriel, and then "Weird Al" Yankovic. At the Peter Gabriel concert we shared a pack of above-average-tasting raw hot dogs that he'd been carrying around all day because he'd forgotten to give them to my father (his brother) earlier that day, and we were two of the few (if any) people who got upgraded from the free grass seating to the low-cost chair seats "because we look like father and son," according to my uncle. It was an amazing day.

On that very day, as luck would have it, in that age before cell phones had cameras, we got our picture taken by a booth promoter with an instant camera.

As you can probably tell by the photo, he was an upbeat guy. Uncle Mickey loved to laugh. His laugh was distinct; loud and rough, and you couldn't go very long talking to him without hearing it. With Uncle Mickey, everything was funny. He even found reason to laugh at his own misfortunes, which is something I took as a lesson for myself.

And boy did he have misfortunes. Either Uncle Mickey was an incredibly unlucky guy, or he just wasn't too shy to talk about his bad luck. From being born on a date that would later be known for hijacked planes and tragedy, to an ex-girlfriend who drove him on the wrong side of the freeway, to being accused of carrying a bomb and getting surrounded by police and the bomb squad when he was a mailman, Uncle Mickey had no shortage of stories to look back on and laugh about.

Another quirky trait of his that has become an inside joke to my brother and I was his distinct ability to misremember the names of the restaurants we frequently ate at. No matter how many times we corrected him, "The Charcoal Grill" became "The Charcoal Broil" and "Culver's" became "Carvell's" or "Carvers". It didn't matter to him what they were called, as long as we wanted to join him there.

Overall my uncle Mickey was a fantastic guy. He was a huge part of my childhood and continues to be a huge influence in my life. I feel obligated to say that this just isn't fair and that he needed more years, but the truth is that fairness has nothing to do with it and he lived a full life - it is I who wants more years and more memories with him. He always said that when his time came he preferred it happened in his sleep, and while I don't know the details of his final moments at the time of writing this, from what little I know it sounds like it was peaceful, and he deserved at least that much.

I love him very much, and I will miss him terribly.

No comments: