This past weekend, my uncle Alex passed away.
An incredibly tough man, he moved with my blue-collar family from Scotland to Canada when he was 4 years old. Back then, it wasn’t as easy for immigrant families to settle in.
My grandparents waited 10 years for their citizenship, while any immigrant children were unable to apply until they were 18, only after the government saw that they would make a positive contribution to our society.
Things have definitely changed over the years here in Canada.
My mother went on to acquire her citizenship after joining the Canadian Military where she served as a mechanic.
My uncle wasn’t so lucky.
His life had taken him down a path of crime and drug abuse.
Looking back at family photos, it’s easy to spot the “Welcome Home Alex” signs hanging up during some holidays, when he had just been released from jail.
Yet as a child growing up in our loving family, I never saw this dark side of him.
He was all smiles when he saw me, and would take me for a walk in the park or to the local fair. I would make him flex his biceps and let me hang off of them like a monkey.
He was the first person to show me ‘Copperhead Road’ by Steve Earl while speeding down a country road in his old Ford. Sometimes we would stop at KFC, or Kentucky Duck as he called it, and I would eat a bunch of french fries without my mom knowing.
A talented musician, bricklayer, and overall a man you wouldn’t want to cross.
Soon enough he had a family of his own, and his children came first.
Since my father wasn’t very involved in my life, I remember feeling a bit of envy towards my new cousins because they had a father who truly cared.
For over a decade, we had a close-knit Scottish family that was truly there for each other.
When my grandmother passed away, much of my immediate family chose to move back to Scotland, and our unit was separated.
My uncles’ escapades here continued, however, and eventually caught up with him.
Due to the fact that he had never been given citizenship, the government of Canada was able to have him deported from Canada back to Britain.
They washed their hands of him and tore apart his family with a one-way ticket.
Never to return.
Again, I’m reminded of how much the rules have changed in this country.
After a few years of living on the streets of England, he was finally able to move into his own home and commit to a job.
As far as he was from his family, he still kept in touch with them, and it seemed like he was becoming stable living on his own.
On October 30th, 2019, at 60 years of age, Alex passed away at his residence.
He leaves behind a beautiful family in Canada, including my aunt and two cousins.
The last time I was with him was for lunch at a pub with my Mom and Grandfather in Liverpool. Seeing them all together and happy again felt absolutely incredible.
My uncle will always be remembered as one of the strongest men I knew, with a huge heart, who cared deeply for his family and their wellbeing.
I’ll never forget his advice to me growing up.
“Keep your stick on the ice Zach-man.”
That I will.
Rest in Peace uncle Alex.