Every Christmas Eve as a child my sister and I would run down the stairs in our new Christmas dresses, fight over mirror space in the bathroom, slip on our most uncomfortable shoes (my feet are shaped like extra-wide shoe boxes), and head out the door with my parents and grandparents for the children's Christmas Program at church. On our way out, my Great Uncle Bill would wave goodbye from the couch.
As a child I never really understood Uncle Bill. He confused me because he would repeat the same phrases over and over again. And even when I answered his questions, he would ask me again. Many times I had trouble understanding him. And I didn't always understand why he needed so much help from Grandma and Grandpa.
Uncle Bill had Fragile X. When I learned that Punkin and I have Fragile X as well, I felt like something shifted in my heart. It's the same with my cousin who has FX. Maybe it's because I see Punkin in them, maybe it's because I'm a mom now, or maybe it's because I grew up, but I feel like my love has deepened over time.
One Christmas Eve we came home from the program and excitedly began opening our stockings. Mine was overflowing, but my sister's was nearly empty; this should have been my first clue, I learned years later, that Uncle Bill was a significant part of our Christmas magic every year. It was his job to set out the presents, of course!
And boy did he love presents. "That's all mine. That's all mine. All mine. All those presents. They're all mine." He'd tease me in a husky voice, waving his finger under the tree. "All mine." Actually, maybe he just liked making me mad, "NO, Uncle Bill! They're mine, too!!"
I know a few other things about Uncle Bill: he loved James Bond and Pink Panther, he worked at a newspaper stand and a soda shop in his younger years, and he was very picky about what shoes he wore. I know he played records for the other residents in the Lutheran Home he lived in for the majority of his later life, where he was also known as The Mayor. He told me frequently about the ways he protected his M&Ms from the other residents.
I also know that we spent a solid 45 minutes discussing Father of the Bride one afternoon while he was visiting and boy oh boy did I HUNT for that movie at my parent's house because let me tell you the perseverations do not cease as individuals with Fragile X grow older. Oh no. We NEEDED to watch Father of the Bride. And no, I did not find it. He settled for Adam Sandler. But as soon as it started he asked me if I'd seen Big Mama's House. "No, sorry Uncle Bill. My mom doesn't have that one." He never lost his ability to perseverate OR his sense of humor. You take the good with the bad, I suppose.
He loved his family; it was evident in his face every time we said hello and especially the last time I said goodbye. I bet he puts on a record and dances with the angels until the rest of us can join him.