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The Last Of The Jackson Clan

Uncle Bob the Boy Scout
The Jackson Clan, little Uncle Bob in the middle.

He was the lucky one. Certainly lucky that he had been born at the end of the Great Depression instead of during it. Lucky that he survived that fire cracker exploding in his pocket, but not without a lot of scars as a result. And especially lucky that he walked away from that plane crash on Vancouver Island as a pilot in the Air Force, with barely a scratch.

He was also lucky that he found a wonderful, supportive partner in my Aunt Margie, who urged him to go on to higher education. I was a 4-year-old flower girl at their wedding. Aunt Margie’s persistence and Uncle Bob’s smarts eventually lead him to become an associate professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia and later at Boston University.

They lived in Nairobi, Kenya for a couple of years while he was getting his PhD, and where, in 1969, they had their only child, my cousin Jennifer. Then there were the adventures. Or misadventures, depending on your point of view.

The house they lived in outside of Nairobi was up on stilts for good reason, especially if you didn’t enjoy spiders and snakes. Aunt Margie told the story of one day,  upon hearing Jennifer crying upstairs, she got up and walked over to the staircase, when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a dark spot on the wall. As she turned to look at it, she realized she was face to face with a tarantula.

Although she was scared out of her wits and definitely not fond of spiders, Aunt Margie was first and foremost a mother, and realized she was going to have to kill the thing. But how do you kill a tarantula? Her first, albeit instinctual move, was to throw some of my Uncle Bob’s books at it. Every book missed, and as each one hit the wall, she swore that a leg of the tarantula would kick out at her in self defense.

Ultimately, it was a kettle full of boiling water that did the creature in. My Uncle Bob came home later that day to find a bunch of his water-soaked books strewn up and down the stairs, a dead tarantula, and my Aunt Margie sitting with little Jennifer, emotionally exhausted. Lucky HE didn’t have to fight the tarantula.

They came back to Canada with a boatload of stories, and gave me a lion made out of banana leaves, telling me to look out for bugs that might still be inside of it. I think they referred to them as “do do’s”. I kept my eye on it.

Africa seemed to set the tone for their lives, and they had many more memorable experiences, seeing the world whenever they could find the time, and finally settling down to retire in the U.K. in 2013.

In the late spring of 2017, my husband and I made the trip to Europe, our first one, where we visited London, Paris and Copenhagen. On our second-to-last day in London, we met up with Uncle Bob and Aunt Margie for lunch. The lunch lasted about three hours while we did a lot of laughing and sharing of stories, finding out what life was like for them living in the UK. It was a wonderful time and one I’ll never forget.

A visit in London.

The next morning, June the 3rd, we woke up to scores of messages and texts on our phones and found out that there had been an attack by a “lorry” on London Bridge. The three occupants crashed the van into scores of people, and then they ran into Borough Market where they proceeded to stab whoever they came into contact with. In the end, 8 people died and 48 were injured. Uncle Bob also sent us a message, hoping that we wouldn’t let that incident spoil the rest of our trip. We decided to Keep Calm and Carry On in the British tradition.

Early last year, Uncle Bob became ill, which many months later lead to a diagnosis of a particularly rare and deadly form of cancer. But he and Aunt Margie were still able to celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary, Jennifer’s birthday, Bob’s birthday and his grandson Ben’s birthday, all in the last couple of months. I think he would have considered that pretty lucky.

We were all hoping there would be more time, but isn’t that always the way? I find myself with tears saying goodbye to the luckiest, and the last, of the Jackson clan.

Skol, Uncle Bob,
Love, Irene

Robert H. Jackson
Feb.23 1938 – Mar 10 2020

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