My grandmother had two sons. The elder son was my father, the younger was my uncle Kolya.
My father was a "good" child, quiet, industrious, seldom in trouble, if you don't count him missing a lot of classes one term in college in favour of going to sports competitions.
My uncle Kolya, he, was boisterous and as gifted in the literary arts as my father was in physics and mathematics.
Only where my father went to college, graduated as an aviation engineer and a lieutenant of the reserve, then served for two years in the army, then worked in science and helped develop two or three inventions,
my uncle Kolya did almost the exact opposite. He dreamed of college too, and of becoming a writer, but in high school, he got mixed up with a crowd of juvenile offenders among whom the idea of the then obligatory army service was unpopular, and whose way out of this civil duty was committing a minor offence punishable by jail, because those who had been in jail were exempt from military service.
And to jail he went. The letters he sent to grandmother while doing his time are preserved in the family archive, and it was from them that I learned what little I know about uncle Kolya as a young adult. They are sad and odd, these letters, full of remorse that feels genuine, and dreams of a better future; most of the letters end in requests of material items, or small sums of money.
Uncle Kolya did not hold a college degree, and I do not know if he ever tried to enter one. He finished a vocational school instead and became a high-qualification mechanic. His choices though continued to be what could be called not very proper, and ten years later he got a seventeen-year-old girl pregnant and married her by special permission from her parents, because she was not yet of age of eighteen.
His wife left him when the child, my cousin, was only one year old, because uncle Kolya had started drinking somewhere along the way, and she did not feel safe with him anymore. Yet through a miracle of goodwill, she kept a good relationship with my grandmother, and through her, my father's, our, side of the family.
My father, meanwhile, was studying, serving, then working, and eight years after his niece was born, he married my mother and had my brother and I. My parents will have been married for 40 years in 2018.
After the marriage, my father returned to working as an aviation engineer, and raised his children, and opened his home for his parents when they grew older and needed support and care, because uncle Kolya, who they lived with before, was drinking more and more, and was also becoming a violent drunk.
After she moved in with us, my grandmother went to see uncle Kolya every month upon receiving her pension, to buy him food and leave him some money, for because of his drinking, he could hold no post long despite his qualifications. He bought booze at once with the money she brought him, and if she did not leave soon enough, he would often beat her up.
Uncle Kolya died when I was in high school in a house fire he'd started while drunk.
My grandmother passed away seven years later, and as was her wish, she now rests in the same cemetery plot as uncle Kolya for, you see, he has always been her favourite son.
- Current Mood:neutral