Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hard Times

This is a very hard time.

Duke died on April 29th. He was over 90 years old. He had been declining for a long time. He lived a good life: He grew up in Boston and remembers his own dad working on the Boston Fire Department with a horse drawn equipment. He fought in WWII. He married a wonderful Irish woman named Abby. He traveled back to Ireland over 100 times. He adopted two older children. He taught at a technical college for several decades. He had 4 grandchildren (including my husband). He had one great-grandchild, Liam. He was a true storyteller, a man of faith and a loving person.

Duke and Liam had the same hair in this picture. Mostly bald with long, wispy strands!

That loss is hard, sad and difficult. We were grieving.

My Uncle Jimmy died on May 3rd. He was 56 and would have been 57 2 days later. He missed being born in Malta by just a few weeks and was instead born in Bar Harbor, Maine. His parents were in the Navy, and by most accounts not the best of parents. He, like my dad, was homeless for a time when they lost the family house. He was an alcoholic who was on the wagon for decades. He had 2 children very young and placed them for adoption. His girls are a pharmaceutical rep and a lawyer. He has 5 grandchildren (they are young). He was my godfather, an awesome uncle and a full-size child. He's exactly what you expect of a red-head- fiery and fun. He loved playing with my brother and me when we were kids. He was a long-term boyfriend to two women (at different times!). The mother of his 2 kids, who he was with for several decades, and his current girl friend of 5 years. He was helping to raise her 2 boys- 6 and 14. He kept his diagnoses of COPD and emphysema a secret, likely to keep us from worrying (and insisting he stop smoking). When he knew he was nearing the end, he asked that we see that his best friend/ roommate and his 4 cats were taken care of. He was lively, funny and full of life.

Jimmy and bubba the cat He always loved cats. Liam seems like he is going to carry on Jimmy's red hair!

Here he is at my wedding, directly behind me

It may not seem like there are many parallels: Duke- a life lived conventionally, fully and surrounded by many. Jimmy was wild, after a wild upbringing and died too young from such preventable causes. However, one placed two children for adoption in the 70s, one adopted the same number. Both fought- one a world war and one a private one. Both loved. Both touched my life and now both have passed. It's sad that so many mourn Duke when I don't know how many will come to mourn my uncle.

One shouldn't have to live life on the straight and narrow to be missed and mourned. Yes, Jimmy smoked a lot of weed, yes, he got government assistance. Yes, he crashed on the couches of his Brother, sister and girlfriends- but he loved, sacrificed and worked. His parents were alcoholics who never got sober, they fought violently. He was the baby and was left behind when the older kids married. He bore the brunt of his parents actions as my grandad was out of the Navy for most of his childhood and came home to cause trouble. He never graduated from high school.

I hope that this story encourages just one reader to think before they judge. My uncle like everyone else is a product of his surroundings. He did "bad" things- but good ones as well. And Duke? He wasn't perfect either. He also drank too much, he had some wild times with the ladies of France, he held beliefs that tend to raciest and anti-woman.

They will BOTH be missed. Greatly.

If you read this, please send a thought out to both of them- a young man and an old one.

And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

Bastille, Pompeii

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