Memories of Uncle Mike

The Five Tenors

A Remembrance of Michael Duncan Abbott by Katryna Mary Brooke Ormiston.

Michael Duncan Abbott

“We had a big argument over politics one day and he stormed out,” says Dad.

“I opened the kitchen window and called down, ‘See you tomorrow, Mike.’ He threw his arms in the air and yelled ‘Urrrrrrrh!’”

The Abbotts have always been our neighbours: Auntie Di, my godmother, Uncle Mike, Dad’s friend and drinking partner, Tom, John’s best friend growing up, and Tom’s older sister, Karen, a classic Barbie in the flesh.

So perfectly blonde and beautiful, I didn’t think she could be real. Twelve years older than me and with so few sightings, I wasn’t entirely sure she was.

My memories are specific and clear: wrestling with John and Tom on Dad’s bed, falling on my face running down Valhalla’s hill too fast when the beats of a drum-kit from the Abbott’s shed echoed up the hill, the wipe-out and scrapes worth it to sit in the corner and watch Tom and his friends’ play rock n’ roll and feel it fill up my little kid soul.

The Abbott annual Labour Day party, with its’ cobs of summer corn, was the only time a year I played with children my age on weekends with Dad.

Mostly though, it was Uncle Mike.

It was Dad and Uncle Mike in the living room drinking Scotch and wine laughing and telling stories. It was Dad and Uncle Mike with a TV at full volume and VCR replaying over and over (for many years) ‘The Three Tenors’ in Italy with Pavarotti leading the way and Dad and Uncle Mike sitting or standing arm in arm, glasses raised and voices joined in an operatic sing-a-long. It was Dad going to bed at 8pm and Uncle Mike in the kitchen talking to a lonely ten year old about foreign adventures and the meaning of life as though I was old enough to be worthy of existing.

“Hit me in the head with a hammer,” says Dad.

On January 12th, 2002, Uncle Mike had a stroke that ripped him of his freedom to move in the world. His adventures cut short. Uncle Mike was still there and life’s meaning still felt and pondered by the tears I sometimes saw in his eyes. But it was hard. He was a soul held captive in a body beyond repair.

“Good loyal people she is,” says Dad.

I don’t know what kind of husband Uncle Mike was with a drinking habit compatible with a man like Dad. But, I know the kind of wife he was married to, the kind that sticks with you to the end, the kind I hope to be.

Mike Abbott died at 88 years of age on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013.

Waking up at an unknown hour of the night, I find myself remembering. And then I’m singing a song I wrote while on a train with Mum, on our own adventure crossing the British channel from under the sea.

In the darkness, I sing it once for me and I sing it once more for Uncle Mike.

             Bury me in an old pine box, in a fleece-lined sweater and cozy wool socks

            With the memories of years before, to take with me to heaven’s door

            Bury me in an old pine box

            Bury me in an old pine box, in a fleece-lined sweater and cozy wool socks

            With my wedding ring and songs to sing, a family photo I’d like to bring

            Bury me in an old pine box

            Bury me in an old pine box, in a fleece-lined sweater and cozy wool socks

            Please pray for me when I go and sing with love not sorrow

            Bury me in an old pine box