Monday, March 23, 2009

Uncle Hal

My Uncle Hal resided in Owosso, Michigan, and I rarely saw him. But he came to mind Saturday evening, during a conversation wherein someone asked me about the origins of my French name. I said yes, there was some French on my father's side. The person replied that she had recently visited Belgium, the French-speaking southern part I'm assuming. When she brought up Belgium, the first thing that flashed in my mind was a story my Uncle Hal had told, about how he had had to bail out of an airplane during World War II over Belgium. The natives that came to him when he landed were delighted to hear that his last name was Briand, a French name, and so they welcomed him with wine. (I am pretty sure he said they gave him wine, but I could be remembering that part wrong.)

I told Uncle Hal's story, though I didn't want to impose too much of my family history on my new acquaintance. But, I have a vivid memory of Uncle Hal telling the story, and remembering the tale gave me pleasure, and so I was glad to have an excuse to relate it.

The next day, Sunday, I got word that Uncle Hal had passed away. My Aunt Virginia had talked to him sometime on Saturday, and then by the time Hal's son went to visit him on Sunday morning, he was gone. I don't know where Hal was when I was telling his story--was he still here, was he over there, was he somehow passing through? By passing through, I don't mean to suggest he was passing nearby where I was, but maybe as people leave, they are able to make us aware of them.

It doesn't matter. I'm just glad I was thinking of Hal when I was, and was remembering his enjoyment of the story. Uncle Hal was a good storyteller--he had an energy and vitality when he talked that made everything he said seem interesting, and he grinned a lot. My mom says he always had a twinkle in his eye, and I think that's true. My impression of him was that he had an active curiosity. I remember hearing him and my Dad talk in the kitchen, enthusiastically it seemed, about how to make stuff, or how stuff worked, or how to get stuff to work--mechanical stuff.

Hal was 89. He joins his wife Verlena, his parents, his niece Jackie, his sister Joyce, and his brothers Sol and Maurice (just to name a few people). Sol died almost two years ago. It would have been his birthday on Sunday.

Godspeed you to heaven, Uncle Hal.


  1. thanks for that, simone. i have no memories of uncle hal to speak of. i remember his wife as a person who was always smiling. this was a beautiful piece/post. i think you should send it somehow to his son, hal maurice. we briands need to consolidate our memories and keep them safe,,they seem to be scattered.

  2. beautiful recollection, shimmy. thanks for sharing. I think you have a wonderful family.

  3. Memories are something to be kept and cherished. Once they are forgotten, they are gone forever. As we get older, it is nice to think back and recall these memories and share with our children. After all, they are a part of our personal history.

  4. You should watercolor paint your flowers.