I thought I would re-post this piece I wrote last year when I was trying to process the news, a year ago today, that my uncle had died.
This morning was a typical Thursday morning. Up with the alarm, make the bed, hop in the shower, and then I noticed the voicemail message. In my family, there's only one reason why my cousin would be calling me at 6:15am, and it isn't to spread good news. This is confirmed by my cousin's voice because I can tell straight away she's trying to remain composed, and in her message, she goes on to say that her father has died during the night. He was married to my mother's 1st cousin,who was more like a sister, and predeceased him almost 10 1/2 years ago, and while that doesn't officially make him my Uncle, we always called them Aunt and Uncle, and they were a big part of my life. My cousin and I are also close, and I was the first person she called.
Of course, I immediately called her back to express my heartfelt sympathy and to find out how or why, he died. At 69, he wasn't old, and he seemed to be in good health, and he was still going to work everyday. Apparently, he died, peacefully in his sleep. In my opinion, this is the way to go, but it still comes as a shock. His live-in girlfriend, significant other, tried to wake him this morning and he was unresponsive so she called the paramedics, and there was nothing they could do.
This was one morning when I wished I lived closer, my cousin lives in NJ, along with the great majority of my extended family, and I'm here in CT. I would have called work and headed over to be with her and help in someway. Instead, I'm struggling through the work day. Obviously, I'm not actually working, because here I am composing this post, but I thought it would help me process, and then maybe I could get some work done.
I have a lot of good memories of my Uncle. I remember the Tic/Tac's (orange) he would bring home from his 2nd job at Shea Stadium when my cousin and I were kids. It's funny how the mind works, because I hadn't thought of that in years. However, I still have an affection for Tic/Tac's. I also have a memory of us sitting in the car with him, waiting in line for gas (remember the 70's?), and him telling goofy jokes to help the time pass. He also asked us which rock band had a name that you could spell forwards and backwards, and it was still the same? Abba, of course!
Our families were on vacation together in Nag's Head, NC, when he took some of his first photos. He captured an eagle one morning while walking on the beach at sunrise. Photography would become one of his great passions, and I have a picture of a sunflower he captured and gave me last year hanging on my wall. Sunflowers are a personal favorite, and this one is beautiful. I also asked him to be at my daughter's 1st Holy Communion last year and capture the memories like only he could. The pictures came out beautiful and afterward, I can only hope I expressed my gratitude sufficiently in my thank you note.
I remember how wonderful he was in the aftermath of my aunt dying when he carried on with my cousin's baby shower exactly as she would have wanted, and fortunately sought my guidance when it came to giving my cousin the gift for her unborn baby from her mother. It was the last gift opened and there wasn't a dry eye in the room.
In the last ten years, my uncle was a devoted 'pop pop' to his grandson, my cousin's son. They had a very close bond and I can only imagine how difficult it will be for him to say good-bye. They have shared a passion for sports, and a silly sense of humor. Every picture I have of my godson was taken by his grandfather, and they are perfect.
Of course, there were not so good times too. I was one of the first to realize he was dating again very soon after his wife died, and 'she' was another first cousin of my mother and my aunt. At the time, I couldn't understand why he would be so blatant about it, but I think he was trusting me because it was all going over my cousins head. She was just home with her baby and in la la land, and it wasn't time to share the news with her. In time, she would need to deal with it and I was there for her. Initially, it caused a little family strife but it's been 10 years, and they were happy (maybe).
We were supposed to see him a couple of weeks ago at my cousins house for a post Christmas, Christmas celebration, and snow canceled our plans. Snow. Last time I saw him we were celebrating a christening in Long Island. I always enjoyed seeing him at our family celebrations over the years. Inevitably, I would wind up sitting with him, and we always had a great time, and shared lots of laughs. The next family gathering will be for his wake on Sunday, and the funeral service on Monday. I did not see that coming.
Well, I didn't get a lot of work done today, but I do feel better. Thanks for letting me share.