My Uncle Manuel was one of the coolest, toughest, funniest dudes I had ever met growing up. He always said what he thought (which was usually hilarious and brutally honest) and he didn’t take shit from anyone.
He was also a raging alcoholic who never recovered from the depression of heartbreak in his youth. He drank until his liver failed, all the while knowing he was killing himself.
I remember he would come home after the bar in my pops’ village closed and play classical music cassettes on his old, beat up stereo. I always planned on getting rich, coming back, and bringing him a brand new stereo with a bunch of his favorite classical CDs.
He died before I got to make something of myself. I never got to bring him that stereo or those CDs. He was modest in a somewhat cynical way, so I don’t think he was ever even aware of how profound an impact he had on my life.
What I’m saying is this: when I reflect on my memories of him, his flaws do not overshadow the greatness I perceived in him. I believe that the truest of heroes are often unaware of their value to others. I understand that he was human and carried a long chain of mistakes behind him. However, having lived a bit of life myself, I now see how strong he must have been to survive as long as he did.
Holy shit man, life is really hard.