I don't remember what Christmas Eve this was.
I do remember this.

Uncle Hal and Autnie Vera gave the best Christmas presents.
As a kid with the blessing of opening one present on Christmas Eve it was never a question for Kyle and me which one it would be.
"Hal and Vera's," we'd unanimously shout.

Well, actually, according to Kinkade legend I would shout and Kyle would mumble.
"Mahhm ahh Verr!"

We knew what he meant.

Here is what I remember from this night.
Open the gifts.
A set of boxing gloves.
One for Kyle one for me.

Anyone who has ever been a big brother knows the joy I felt at that moment.

I'm sure it was my Dad who set up the picture.
I'm sure my Mom was opposed.
Because who really pits an 8 year-old against a 5 year-old except someone powered by testosterone and my genetics.

I don't remember if I threw the first punch.
But the first punch I threw was captured forever on film.
Kyle fell back.
My Mom says he cried. Kyle just remembers falling.

But look at our joy!
Look how excited we are!
We were true fighters!

Snap back. The flash fades. Kyle is laying on the ground.
My Mom is running towards me.
I do remember this part.

"You will never see these gloves again," she tells me.
I never did and Christmas Eve was over.

My Auntie Vera died on Monday from heart problems.
I don't know what those problems were, but I know it wasn't because it was too small.
In the mixture of family I can't remember if she was a great aunt or a great-great aunt.

She was a great woman.

I remember opening her hotel room door in Los Angeles where my family had congregated for my Uncle Bob's wedding.
Her and Uncle Hal were sleeping.
"Are we going to get ice cream?" I asked.
"Brent, dear, it's after midnight. Go to bed," she said.

When Kyle graduated from high school I flew out to Seattle to celebrate with my family once again.
I had grown facial hair and two feet of bone and flesh.
Vera did not recognize me. She clutched her purse and almost screamed "Terrorist!"
"Vera, it's me ... Brent."
That was all she needed to hear.
For the rest of my trip Vera was my date everywhere we went. At restaurants we sat next to each other. At the graduation we walked in together arms crooked and combined.

She was happy.
So was I to be back with the provider of boxing gloves and promises of ice cream.

I will never forget the woman who gave me the boxing gloves, who I called "Auntie", and who loved with all of her heart someone that I would be proud to be half of the husband he was one day ... my Uncle Hal, who passed away a few years before Vera.

I don't believe in Heaven ... but, part of me knows that Uncle Hal and Auntie Vera have beaten fate, physics and the all mighty odds to be together once again.
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