Although I had three uncles (all of whom I liked a great deal), this one was my favorite uncle for several reasons. For one thing, he and I shared similar personalities. In addition, he was an electronics professional, a fact that I found awe-inspiring and fostered my interest in technology. Among my earliest memories are those of Petie. He, along with his parents, was always a fixture at my house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My parents would save up electronics issues and would have Petie work on them when he came to visit; Petie, freshly arrived at my house, buried in the console TV. Petie would give me gifts that were wildly fabulous for a small boy of the time; a transistor radio, a pushbutton LED digital watch, a 'pocket' calculator.
Later, as I became interested in electronics, he supported me with parts and test equipment. Shortly after I finished electronics technician school, he gave me an oscilloscope, a magical and impossibly extravagant item for a young tech. He also supported my nascent career in other ways.
Over a Christmas break in the late 80's, my mother was having an issue with the volume control on the kitchen television. She wanted Petie to look at it. Petie suggested that she should have me look at it; it would be a good use of my fresh skills. My mother was skeptical but Petie assured her that he would keep an eye on me.
Later in the day, I took apart the TV on the kitchen table while my uncle read in the other room. I went over the audio circuitry carefully but could not find anything wrong. I told my uncle; he told me to put the TV back together, which I did. The problem had disappeared through my disassembling and reassembling the TV.
My mother returned and Petie informed her that I had fixed the television. She was impressed but interested to know what the problem had been. I was prepared to tell my mother the truth but Petie instead informed her that 'an op-amp had been improperly biased'.
I was fortunate fifteen years ago to have been freshly laid off and at loose ends when my uncle suffered a stroke. I was able to go and stay with him for two weeks and help him get himself together. Despite his injury, I really enjoyed our time together, playing lots of Scrabble and discussing whatever came into our heads. At that time, I also found out that the stories I had been told as a child regarding what he did for a living were somewhat untrue; while he did work with electronics he was not involved with avionics; he was actually involved with electronic intelligence gathering installations during the cold war. I was fascinated to hear him recount stories from his career.
Over the last few years, Petie declined to the point that he could no longer walk and was confined to bed in a nursing home. I visited when I could; infrequently due to distance and other demands on my time. Recently he took a dramatic turn for the worse. I had planned to visit him on Christmas Eve; he passed away on the 18th. His sister, my mother, was with him when he passed.
My official grieving period was short; my mother called on the 18th, interrupting dinner with the news. I went for a short walk and went to my office to think. Almost immediately, I was toned out for a particularly idiotic domestic assault (lots of drunks, blood, and cursing). It seemed like a welcome distraction but by the time I returned home everyone assumed I was okay with the passing of my uncle.
I wasn't. I'm not.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, O1 has been very empathetic and supportive. We were driving someplace last week; he remarked that it was sad about my uncle and that he had been a wonderful person. I found it an interesting choice of words; I'm not sure too many people other than myself and Petie's mother considered my uncle wonderful or regarded him with the same love and awe that I did. During the subsequent discussion, I mentioned to O1 that I completely owed my love of technology to my uncle.
"I know," said O1. "I got it from you, so I owe that to him as well."