Most readers will be more familiar with my cousin Hugh under the name in which he has appeared in RPG material I wrote. That is, Heward. He died of cancer. Although he had been under treatment for some time — and two weeks prior to his dying I has a dream premonition in which he appeared to me as a young man, so I knew that things were bleak — his passing is nonetheless a blow.
Hugh was five years older than I, and when I moved to Lake Geneva we lived less than a block from each other. We weren’t buddies, but we were close in many ways. As a kid I loved to see his collection of hand-painted watches, the marvels of a repeater clock, and try to find the secret compartments hidden in other time pieces he had collected. Hugh let us younger guys use the “fort” in which he no longer had interest, a neat place above his parent’s garage. He owned a pair of original pinball machines (ball bearings and pins, of course), which were a special feature of the club my friends and I had in the attic of my house when I was in high school. He introduced me to the musical fun of Victor Borge, allowed be the pleasure of hearing my first high fidelity recording and later the marvels of binaural sound and then stereo, FM music when hardly anyone knew that there were frequency modulated broadcasts. On the more active side he would take a bunch of us out in a Model A Ford, opening the wind screen and bouncing along rutted, puddle-dotted back roads. You better believe those splashing and head-banging rides were uproarious outings!
In game terms he was a metaphysical and spatial reasoning guy, while I was more a psychic and instinctive sort. At about age seven, Hugh got a non-functioning pocket watch from somebody, took it apart, and when he reassembled it, it worked. He could make just about anything mechanical run. He was musically talented, had perfect pitch, taught himself about the workings of the pipe organ, and made a profession of building, repairing, tuning, buying and selling these instruments for churches and theaters too. In my teens I worked for him as an assistant doing this sort of work in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. He could, of course, repair and tune pianos and reed organs too, but he was most happy working with grand old Wurlitzers and that ilk.
Hugh and I were quite different in many aspects. I played games. He tinkered with clocks and locks for amusement. I listened to music, but he played it. While I was hunting with bow and arrow or rifle or shotgun, rambling around with a fishing rod, camping out, he was building motorbikes, tuning a piano, making some clock or watch work right, refining his electronic music equipment, or laboring over the engine of an automobile he owned so that it would run better — or maybe for the first time in years. Hugh was valedictorian of his high school graduating class. I never finished. He studied medicine and dentistry in college, I took courses in English and social sciences. When I worked as a farm hand, a busboy, porter, stock clerk, theater usher, even a mover, Hugh was already running his own business. As I said, I eventually worked for him, and I needed every bit of muscle developed by weight lifting and laboring jobs to manage keeping up with him. Disassembling and hauling pipe organ around, or assembling them, is really heavy and hard work.
We had a lot in common too. Blood relationship wasn’t all. Hugh and I were akin in several areas. Both of us were nonconformists, both radical in our own ways, and both intellectual — but, again, from different directions as I mentioned. As a boy I delighted in deviling him, while he in turn enjoyed disdaining me. As we grew older we had many a spirited argument, he from the left, so to speak, I from the more pragmatic right. Hugh believed very much in mystical, I more in the physical, although in regards potential unknowns we concurred.
Over the many years since then, Hugh and I had maintained the same sort of approach to life. He followed his road, I mine. He never married, although Hugh was once very serious once about an opera singer, but after a couple of years that ended. So Hugh didn’t have any children, looked on mine more as might an uncle than a first cousin once removed. For family occasions such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the like, he was a part of the gathering in my home. It came as a true shock to me when he told me he had bone cancer. Hugh was one who believed in organic foods, vitamins, minerals, and holistic medicine. He never smoked, drank minimally if at all, and did all the things now popularly held to assure health, long life, and vigor. In truth, I suspected he would be around to see me off on the long voyage into the unknown. When we visited him a few days before the end, he said he was glad he hadn’t missed Thanksgiving dinner with us, and he wanted to be out the hospital in time to come to out place.
So yet another chapter in my life has closed with the departing of my cousin. It is a very sad thing for me, but a good reminder of mortality, the absolute lack of assurance as to anything standing between one and termination. In response I turn with greater verve towards the production of such writing as I have inside my head and heart. Time is uncertain and a precious resource. There’s yet much I wish to pass along. Hugh chose to exercise his creativity in bringing people the sounds of the majestic pipe organ as they should be heard. For many decades at least, probably far longer, there will be pipe organs with little brass plates with his name on them hidden somewhere which issue forth their music because Hugh E. Burdick repaired, rebuilt, or built them. Hugh directed his efforts towards lifting the soul of mankind and building the metaphysical side of those around him. I hope I am as successful in encouraging the reasoning and creative portions of the minds of those I reach through my writings.
My life is lessened because my cousin is no longer here to make me consider other approaches to life, to prod me into pondering such things from past lives and reincarnation to the whole of Gaia. In fact, it was there, at least, where he and I shared common ground. I “feel” the oneness of all life on this planet, and possibly even the greater entity encompassing the many parts. Of that he was positive. Be that so, then the loss is but transition, and in other ways Hugh will be with me and all to continue contributing towards betterment and understanding. So as long as I remain able, you can be assured I will work with renewed diligence and attempt to touch the metaphysical a bit more frequently in that process. That is something Hugh would certainly agree was beneficial, and a process which you might find interesting. Without abandoning individuality, quite impossible, of course, I’ll try to bring a facet of that part of human conceptualization to my writings.
The name, Heward, remains in the game system of a company who now claims it as their property. This by no means disallows the reappearance of his special persona in fantasy game terms, or in other genres for that matter, by another name. What a heka-forger and crusty character!
Farewell, then, Hugh. Thank you for being with me for a while.
Note: retrieved via wayback machine from Dice Tales.