My great uncle Mutt passed away last week. And the world is a little less of a place this week as a result. This is a letter I sent to a friend in 2010. I remember the day vividly.
Saturday May 30, 2010
My Great Uncle Mutt’s real name is Ivan. Save for the mail on his kitchen counter, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to him as “Ivan.”
Unlike the majority of relatives on my Mom’s side of the family, my Uncle Mutt did not live in Wichita until very recently. My mom used to tell me how Mutt was a former beatnik. For the longest time, I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it made him fascinating in a way that always made me want to sit by him at family gatherings. Even as a small child I remember feeling transfixed by Mutt. He is the type of old, gentle soul who walks into a room and people just want to know him. They want to be liked by him. And when everyone else in the world would say to me “Amy, you are your father's daughter,” Mutt would walk through the door and marvel “Amy, you remind me so much of your mother.”
It was only around the age of 15 or so that I finally realized Mutt’s companion Terry was more than a roommate. It never phased me before that...or after. I loved Uncle Mutt for his knowledge of art and film and the intricacies of cultures of countries I had never even heard of. I loved that in a sea of chattering loud women, Mutt, a former social worker, could sit quietly and soak in every tidbit of the conversation going on (verbal and nonverbal.) I loved that his coffee table wasn’t a coffee table, rather some sort of refurbished door from an old Italian villa. And whenever I visited, he took the time to tell me about the art on the wall.
Of all the conversations with Uncle Mutt, the one I remember the most is the day he declared "Fresh flowers are as essential to life as food.”
He isn’t just a man who speaks it, he is a man who lives it.
Mutt isn’t doing well. His health has been in rapid decline since Terry passed several years ago. I often wonder if his condition is tied to true malady or a truly broken heart. You see, it turns out not all the art and films and Italian doors in the world cannot compete with the love of your life. You can buy more everything, but you can't buy more love.
We went to visit Uncle Mutt today. I noticed that he has a picture of Chihuly's glass ceiling at the Bellagio framed on his kitchen counter. He obviously loves it, as people only take the time to frame the things they truly adore. That ceiling is my favorite thing in Vegas, competing only with the water show outside, which gives me goosebumps and makes me leak from the eyes. I remember the first time I saw this particular show, I was in awe. It seemed all of Vegas was left speechless, too. From the smallest children to the drunkest drunks, it made people stop. On the sidewalks. On the streets. It hushed the crowd and captivated everyone.
If the flashes of light people talk about when they return from the brink are real, I have to imagine that passing from this life into another is not unlike "Time to Say Goodbye" at the Bellagio Fountains. All the madness and chaos and multi-million dollars of the surrounding hotels and casinos fading into the background. Time stops as a life gently folds in on itself, and a soul is escorted from this place in one final, golden show.
We have a huge Chihuly installation at the Franklin Park Conservatory in town. I think next weekend I will dust off my camera and go to the conservatory to take pictures of our Chihuly to mail to Mutt.
Wherever you are now, dear Uncle Mutt, I hope you have a Chihuly garden to call your own.