Last week we buried another uncle. My mom is the 12th of 13 children – 7 girls and 6 boys. Mom is one of the “little girls” so at 81 many of her siblings have passed away. All the boys are gone now and only four of the girls remain – aged 91, 86, 81 and 80. It’s tough watching as they all fade away. Uncle Bob was my mom’s closest brother – both in age (82) and emotionally. She and Bob have always been connected in so many ways.
So it was hard losing our uncle but harder still watching Mom grieve.
Uncle Bob served our country in the U.S. Army from 1945 until being honorably discharged in 1947. He had been a carpenter for over 40 years. He left behind four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He lived on 80 acres; dug and stocked 6 lakes; built his home with his own hands. Arguably his greatest accomplishment is that he spent the last 35 years of his life sober. Far too many years he spent in the depths of alcoholism. And he paid dearly – losing his beloved wife Rita. But to his credit Uncle Bob never pitied himself or lost his sense of humor. He may have lived with regrets but those were his to shoulder. He never expected anyone to feel sorry for him. He stayed associated with AA until the end – sponsoring many other recovered alcoholics.
Uncle Bob’s one-liners are legendary: Upon meeting one of our neighbor’s, that he considered a blow-hard, he remarked “That guy is all wind and no rain!” About a talkative aunt, “She’s the hi-goodbye girl” “That’s all you get to say when you talk to her!” About another “She could give a woodpecker a headache!” He was always quick to laugh and had a self-deprecating sense of humor. Concerned that his memory wasn’t as good as it once was; he named his favorite beagle ‘Bob’ so he wouldn’t forget the dog’s name.
Bob will certainly be missed; by his children, his grandchildren, his four remaining sisters and a multitude of nieces, nephews and friends. Mom said recently “Life is just too short”. She said it seemed like yesterday that she and Bob were kids on the farm. Once when Bob was ill and bed-ridden, Mom and her younger sister learned how to ride a bicycle using Bob’s new bike while he lay in bed unable to stop them. The two sisters would ride his bicycle pass his bedroom window just to taunt him. Mom laughed and then cried recalling the memory. For a moment she was six years old again and Bob was seven and life was carefree.
At his wake and the next day at the funeral luncheon I couldn’t help but notice that my cousins were paying special attention to my mom. I know that she is well regarded by most of the family but I wondered if they were imagining she might “be next”. Were they spending what they thought might be ‘precious little time’ with her? Of course her mortality has been in the forefront of her thoughts lately, which is understandable. Less than two months ago she buried another of her brothers. But Mom? No! I’m not ready. And neither is she. But life is short even when you’re 82; especially when you’re 82…