Last week a very important person in my life passed away. My Uncle Tom was one of my most favorite humans and the world is already a little less fun and cantankerous now that he’s gone. He read my column every week and would call to comment if one really struck him or if he or Aunt Shirlye were mentioned in them.

He was a storyteller deluxe, my Uncle Tom. The older I got, the more I sometimes doubted they were all entirely true, but they were so entertaining I didn’t care much. He was colorful and by “colorful” I mean he could cuss up a storm. I’d like to think I get the storytelling and the cussing from him. Apparently in his youth he was quite a jitterbugger and also played the accordion. I would’ve loved to have seen him do both. He always loomed large in my eyes, my heart, and my mind and as he aged and his health declined, Sis and I would both comment on how small he had started to look. He and five-year-old Sis decided to have start a club and have “club meetings.” Of course, club meetings must have campfires. Once the fire got away and burned up half the yard before he got it put out. Their club meetings were their special thing while I sat in the house and played with Aunt Shirlye’s jewelry. They were two of a kind and we have so many memories of them both.

I remember once I had a sleepover at his and Aunt Shirlye’s house and he came down the hall with no teeth in, shaving cream all over his face, with the full intention of scaring me. I dove into Aunt Shirlye’s lap all while she laughed heartily and said, “Now, Tomi, don’t scare the poor girl like that!” She always smelled like cigarettes and White Diamonds. He always smelled like aftershave. They had teal carpet and dark paneling in their house which always gave it a comforting and close feeling. Not long after Sis and I started having kids, Aunt Shirley bought a white loveseat and sofa and would get so tickled at watching us try to keep our kids from being the first to mark it up or stain it.

They lost their sons and had no grandchildren. They considered our kids their grandkids. Mine and Sis’ kids jumped off the steps from the dining room into the living room just as we and our cousins did when we were kids. And up until the week before he died, Uncle Tom still got tickled to the point he could hardly talk when he’d recall the kids and the waterfall light on the living room wall. He had all of our kids convinced that in order for the light to turn on and the waterfall to flow they had to put their hands in the air and yell “HALLELUJAH!” as loud as they could. And most of every visit was spent with our kids appearing to praise the Lord. What they didn’t learn until just a few years ago was that Uncle Tom had a remote hidden next to him and every time they yelled, he hit the button. He loved all of us so very much and made sure we knew he was proud of us.

Seven years ago Uncle Tom got a little dog he named Cosmo. He was the quintessential “faithful companion” and was always by Tom’s side. Cosmo came to live with me last week. He’s seven pounds of sass and anxiety, doesn’t care for a lot of people, and is a talented nap-taker. Basically, Cosmo is the dog version of me.

Uncle Tom, if Heaven gets the News-Record delivered and you happen to read this week’s column, please know that Cosmo is still the best boy. We can add avocadoes to the very short list of things he won’t eat. And he poops on my den carpet like clockwork once a day. We’ve become good friends, but he misses his Pa something fierce. We all do. You really were one of the best people I ever knew.

Born a semi-diva and married to a redneck, through the magic of osmosis or just because of a serious lack of sophistication over the years, Kristin Hoover has found a balance of the two that makes her what she is today.