The Younger version of me was quite similar to the current version – incredibly curious about the world (particularly how it all worked – a big reason why I got an engineering degree), a motor mouth that never stopped running, and a streak of dickishness pervasive in all of it.
When I was a kid, we’d head back to the motherland every summer and winter break. I had an uncle who would entertain all three of these traits of mine: we’d sit for a couple of hours and I would just hammer the man with questions.
These questions weren’t just “why” ad nauseam – we would call our sessions “general knowledge” and I’d try to out-clever him.
Of course, I never did. But I learned so much in those rapidfire Q&As.
This uncle of mine would then also screw with me. He would offer me a small sum of money if I could be quiet for 15 minutes. He’d then spend the next 15 minutes harassing me, trying to trip me up so I’d say something and he’d win.
The temerity of this man!
When I grew older and we were in LA, my aunt and uncle came to visit. We went to a bookstore and he told me I *had* to read the Count of Monte Cristo (I was always an avid reader of fiction).
Wow – what a book. That book is, in my opinion, one of the greatest works of fiction of all time.
And as life happens, I grew up, built my own life, set up a life here in Toronto (with nary a visit to the motherland in almost two decades); I believe the last time I spoke to him was almost five years ago.
He passed away earlier this month.
I don’t write this as a form of “vulnerability” to garner a slew of “I’m sorry for your loss” comments.
And I don’t write this as a form of self-flagellation as if I’m a lousy kid for losing touch with my uncle.
I write this to celebrate my fortune of having had this man in my life.
I’ll even admit I had not thought of him much recently; he wasn’t a central figure in my life.
I say that with honesty, not shame. It’s not an excuse but a reality: life happens and we fall out of touch.
But I had the fortune of having a person in my life who encouraged my curiosity. Who introduced me to ‘adult’ literature. A man who trolled me as a kid and indirectly taught me not to take life too seriously.
We always talk and think about the people who had significant impacts in our lives (usually our parents, siblings, and our closest friends), but we often forget about the people who have a smaller but still significant impact in our lives.
If we were to treat our lives like a movie, we too often focus on the main and supporting actors, and will miss out in recognizing the fringe characters that can make or break a movie.
This uncle of mine likely did not go to bed thinking, “Oh man, I spent some good time with that Sol when he was a whippersnapper.”
But with hindsight, I can look back and go “damn – though our interactions were brief in the big picture of things, they were impactful enough to have a very positive impact in my life.”
At my Cookie Off, I had a man named Ray Timm attend.
Or well, Mr. Timm to me. Growing up, he was my math and also my PE teacher.
This guy first introduced me to the idea of brilliant and buff. Seriously – he’s built like a tank and incredibly thoughtful to boot.
I was but one of the many students he’s had over the past decades. But in the little time we did spend together, he threw out nuggets of knowledge and wisdom that greatly impacted my life. Things he said offhandedly got stuck in my head.
I am a better man because of him.
I’d like you to take a moment to mull about this. About how random people in our lives were just there at the right time and moment to impact us positively. And that we likely do the same ourselves! You don’t have to save someone or have a starring role in their life; by mere acts of kindness or thoughtfulness, we may end up irrevocably changing someone (ideally for the better)
Or at least, I’d like to think I can have the same impact on someone as my uncle did on me. I wouldn’t be Sol without those interactions.
Thank you Tariq Uncle.
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