A few words about gratitude, and why we should say it when we feel it

When I was 15 or 16, and a thoughtless idiot teenager trying to be the big man, I said something cutting about my uncle within his earshot, and in front of someone else.

My uncle was a quiet man. He was unmarried and the only one in his family not in a relationship.

He was in the gun club, and walked his gun dogs, Tara and Frau and a couple of others over time whose names I forget now, along the little river at the bottom of the field and collected golf balls that were shanked out of bounds off the Royal Tara’s 12th tee on the other bank.

He collected the balls and gave them to us, his nieces and nephews, to sell them to a shop in town for 10p a ball, or to some of his friends who were golfers.

He took solace in his dogs, and his walking, and the gun club, and in the few pints of Guinness he drank most nights.

Because he was quiet, because he was in no relationship, and because he walked everywhere (everyone stopped on the road to give him a lift to wherever he was going), maybe we underestimated him.

Whatever it was, when I was 15 or 16 I thought nothing of disrespecting him that day.

He pulled me up on it.

He was angry, more than I’d ever seen him, but he looked me in the eye, and he was measured in what he said.

I hated it, but I got the message.

Years later, he got married and moved away, and I worked not far from where he lived and drove out to visit him occasionally.

One sunny day he showed me his polytunnel, where he spent much of his free time, and we walked through the flowers in the garden, and we chatted about the bees.

I’ve thanked him in my head for years, but I don’t think he ever knew how I felt about the day he showed me what a firm and positive role model looked like and felt like.

Later he got sick, an aggressive form of cancer, and there was no coming back from it.

He died in 2006. He was 54.

Owen, thank you. I’m sorry I never said it when you were here.