It's been nine years since I told you the story about Uncle Elfie. (Go ahead and read through those six pages if you need a reminder.) I still think of him one in awhile, in fact it was just a couple weeks ago I was telling someone about my favorite not-actually-related uncle. Which is why it came as a shock yesterday when I received a letter from my mother (she doesn't even email more than twice a year!) containing a short letter and this photograph. I looked at the picture and in half a second my heart leapt up to my throat and my head nearly burst. Uncle Elfie!! The three paragraph letter, sandwiched between the usual chatter about what they're up to lately and how my siblings are doing, and the standard statements about how we can communicate and I can visit anytime without a mention of them ever wanting to come to my home – they've never seen it and I've lived here a decade and a half – was this:
Enclosed is a photo I found in that chest of drawers my parents kept in the hallway, stuck to the underside of one of the drawers by something that had spilled long ago. We're finally getting rid of it to an antique dealer. I think you know who this is, and I'm not sure when it was taken but I remember seeing it a few times when I was 10-15 so it's ooold. Your grandmother may have deliberately stuck that photo there so your grandfather wouldn't find it, and that's probably the only thing that saved it from his wrath. I think this was a promotional photo from one of the plays he was in, the back only says "me and Milly, Death of a Salesman" with no date. Dad tried to keep his anger over him to himself but he did vent to me one night at our Christmas party after he'd had a couple more screwdrivers than usual, and what I remember was how hurt he sounded. I couldn't decide whether it was because of his feeling betrayed by this man he trusted, or guilt because he had thrown someone very dear to our whole family out of our lives never to be seen again. I know you still think fondly of him so I am giving this to you.
I was a bit surprised that my mother did not remember from when she was a little girl (or admit knowing) that her mother's best friend Camilla was called Millie by her family and closest friends, but maybe that's for the best.
I believe the gauge of good writing is when something you read affects you emotionally.
Depite the entire Uncle Elfie story being a fabrication of my mind... I do cry when
reading and writing it. He's the relative I never had and lost, if that makes sense.