The road to regret

Uncle Choll (given name Charles) was my grandfather’s younger brother. Whereas Grandpa, a factory foreman, was a little rough around the edges, Choll was sweet and refined. He worked in a fine men’s store in St. Louis, dressed beautifully even for a cookout, and dearly missed his late wife, Edna, known as “Eddie.”

We all looked forward to Uncle Choll’s annual visits. He and Eddie had no children, so he took a genuine interest in my brother’s and my lives. He could listen endlessly, and he drew us out with question after question.

My mother loved showing Choll around the local tourist attractions, which he graciously exclaimed over. I remember as a teenager going with them on the Woods Hole ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. We strolled around Edgartown, where Choll admired the quaint shops and lovely old homes while my mother beamed.

What a dear man.

After college I continued to write to Uncle Choll. He faithfully replied, and we kept up a lively correspondence.

But the time came when I was newly married and busy with work, home, stepchildren, and social life. Uncle Choll’s latest letter sat on my desk. And sat. And sat. My mother called; Choll had mentioned to her that he hadn’t heard from me in a while. “I’ll write to him tomorrow,” I promised.

A week went by, then two. A month. Finally I sat down and typed a short, affectionate note and mailed it to St. Louis. Whew. Obligation discharged!

The following evening Mom called. “Anne, Uncle Choll passed away today. It was his heart – very sudden.” She was crying. I was stunned, and flattened by remorse.

You all know where this is going. Good intentions are easy; it’s what we do with them that matters. I still miss Uncle Choll, and I’m eternally sorry he didn’t get my last letter before he died.


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