It may seem odd to be shocked by the death of someone who had cancer for more than 20 years. Who battled and waged war against that cancer for most of my life. I assure you, however, that a phone call from my parents last week to relay the news was a huge jolt.
Fitton, Nicholas James – Suddenly on Friday, May 4th, 2012 in hospital after a long battle with cancer…(full obit).
He was supposed to be invincible, after all. I won’t even believe this has happened until I see my family tomorrow and he’s not there, with no giant hug for me.
A life has so, so, so many stories, and Uncle Nick’s are not really mine to tell. I told him he should start a blog. I wish he had listened to me. He could have told you about working at the paper mills with the chemicals that caused his leukemia, a kind of cancer that only seniors are supposed to get. Or enduring years of treatment after treatment after treatment including transplants. And what it’s like spending your entire marriage knowing you’re likely to leave your partner bereft. Too soon. Also, there were travel adventures and hare-brained schemes and all kinds of funny stories, because despite all of this, he was an extremely positive, optimistic and hilarious guy.
My brother and I called him Uncle Buck when we were little – probably because he was built a bit like John Candy back then, but mostly because he was a bit of a ‘bad guy’ with a heart of gold. (Like John Candy, he is gone too soon.) My Aunt and Uncle made a conscious decision not to have children (that bloody cancer), and so we (the nephews and nieces) got to benefit from any hijinks he felt he needed to get up to. They were generous and spoiled us, but he also teased us mercilessly. My brother is now threatening to stick my children’s heads in the toilet just as Uncle Nick did to him. May the legacy ever continue.
He sent me email forwards all the time – even just a few days before it happened. You know, those annoying emails containing the latest meme or funny photos or highly distasteful jokes. I always deleted them. Mostly without opening them. I could have asked him to stop sending them, but it felt like it was his way of saying he was thinking about me – like he thought I’d think it was funny. It was a small group of us on his forward list. I was glad to be there.
He called me Em, like he called my mother Mar. He was always interested what was going on with us, always supportive. He was here at the house in November, approving of our move, and he got to meet Charlie. He looked so well then.
I can’t get to Ottawa until tomorrow. I should be there tonight at a visitation, but we couldn’t make the arrangements work – this is the first time that going down to one car has been both a logistical and financial problem. My entire, entire family will be there – and people I haven’t seen in forever. As I am kind of stuck here, I’m going to honour another invitation that I received and see some friends tonight. Nick would definitely approve of a good time. Even if I will be a little heart-sick not to be with my family.
It’s going to be a really tough weekend. I’m so sad for my Aunt, though she was probably the most prepared of any of us. And I’m desperately sad for my grandparents. It’s not right to have to say goodbye to your son when you are in your nineties. As a friend said, the universe seems out of balance.
Uncle Nick, you will be so, so, so missed.