When Bob married my Aunt Barb, I thought it'd be a long time before he felt like family to me. In my mind, I felt like my life had been so long that the time before I knew Bob would always be longer than the time since he came into our lives. Of course, I was wrong. I had no perspective.
I'm not really sure when the change in perspective occurred. Maybe it was when he always made time for me to get a beer at the Moose. Maybe it was his selfless giving to making Granny laugh. Maybe it was how he sent care packages to every one of my friends when they were deployed. Or that he continued to ask about how they were doing eight years later.
I know the change was so gradual that I never noticed. Family is like that. One day, your cousin is feeding you mud pies; the next, he's standing by your side, trying to cheer up the rest of the family as they try to make sense of the incomprehensible.
Bob wasn't all laughter and smiles. He came off a bit gruff when I was younger. As I came to realize over the years, he kidded the ones he loved. If he didn't like you, he wouldn't waste his breath. Just like most of my friends.
Hammerhead. Testa dura. Governor. Friend. Uncle. He passed away this afternoon after a fierce battle with cancer. Judging by the reactions of the rest of my family, I'm not the only one who's going to miss him.