The house on the corner of our housing tract has been newly listed for lease. I saw the red and blue sign stuck in the grass just this morning when turning into our housing development on my way home from the kiddos’ music class. That sign means the house, of course, is empty now. The lease listing is on the heels of the estate sale held shortly before Christmas. I know what this means. I know that the elderly man who lived there, a military man judging from the plates on his car, has passed away.

As we used to see him sometimes in the garage (he always kept it as neat as a pin) on our morning walks, we have seen the hustle and bustle of his family these last weeks. I know it is the first set of holidays without him. I know he left a space that cannot be filled.

I just never knew his name. Strange sometimes, how people can be neighbors and yet live worlds apart.

As we are brought in touch with a common human nature through our joy, so are we connected to the greater whole through our grief. We might all have a million different ways of grieving, but we all know the edges and whirls of loss. It doesn’t take but a look at that empty house to feel the pang of that family’s loss. A grandfather, a dad, possibly a brother, a widower—whomever he really was, he was to somebody.

To the day, today, January 13th, is the fifth anniversary of my Uncle Eric’s own passing. Wherever he is—whether the reader believes he is in Heaven, or all around us, or alive still inside each of us, or atoms, or what—I know that he brought the pep rally with him today. Class of ’66, the school mascot Lance Bullwinkle, and an uncle who never tired out before we did, Uncle Eric could make anything hilarious. I just don’t think the four-dimensional world was big enough to contain him, a true force of nature. He was intelligent, kind, humorous, and loyal.

I am trying not to be sad today, but for some reason we humans give weight to numbers like 5, 10, and 20. Not sure why. We just do. The truth is that I miss him all the time, and I think about him constantly when I hold my son Eric. He breathes inside of the songs we sing for lullabies and the traditions we have as a family. He invented family words (“plude” for example) that I use with my own children. Uncle Eric is never so far.

Yesterday my BFF Rosa brought our family a gift: a blu-ray package set of The Sound of Music, complete with a music box gears, colored prints, and photo books. This turned out to be a perfect gift because my current copy of The Sound of Music is not blu-ray, and last year, it started skipping and freezing right during the gazebo scene (of all the places to skip, right?…!!!). Uncle Eric has been to Austria, he loved The Sound of Music, and “So Long, Farewell” was played at his memorial. Five years on, and I still can’t make it through that piece without crying. Both of my special songs with each of my children are from The Sound of Music (Katie’s is “My Favorite Things” and Eric’s is “The Sound of Music”), and I guess my point is this: as much as I have a tendency imbue anything with significance, I have certainly infused The Sound of Music with almost talisman-like qualities.

It was my intention to watch The Sound of Music today (I always watch in January around this time to honor Uncle Eric) with the kiddos, but as both of them are napping, I am not sure if this will happen. Perhaps tomorrow…Yes, I think that will do.

Fittingly (since Uncle Eric loved music and was a member of his Chamber Choir and Concert Choir), Katie and Eric had their first day of music class for the term this morning. We’re studying “Bells” and we loved seeing our friends again after a long holiday break. If there is one way to honor Uncle Eric, it is to make music and be cheerful and to love our friends and family.

This is a picture of me meeting Uncle Eric shortly after I was born.

Uncle Eric and Aunt Jenny with me during my 1st birthday.