Thursday, February 26, 2009


When growing up we would, of course, make the occasional visit to our grandparents house and at least at my dad's parent's house my Uncle Tom would be there to keep me and my brother entertained. He was only around ten years older than us so the stuff in his room was cooler than the rest of the house and he at least tolerated the rambunctiousness of his wound up nephews*.

As my immediate family grew, it got to be pretty hard to keep track of everyone beyond the house I lived in, not only for myself but for everyone else as well (at least i think). Over time my Uncle Tom drifted off to grow up and do whatever it was that grown-ups do (or not, at least from what I'd heard).

I had only seen him a couple times after he had joined the Navy several decades ago. He left the military after his tour and held jobs of different flavors (I assume). At this point only the funerals of my grandparents spring immediately to mind as to when I saw him last (from what I gather, I wasn't the only one this applied to). I know my dad would have been upset at the funerals, but I recall my Uncle Tom being...umm...'distant' might be the best term. I thought nothing of it at the time given the circumstances, but now I wonder...

I learned this morning that my Uncle passed away a short time earlier from sclerosis of the liver at the age of 45, apparently done in by self treatment of depression with alcohol.

We weren't close by any means, but I still cared about his well being, much as I hope that distant cousins whose names I cannot recall would care about not wanting me to starve to death in an ally. In instances like this I always like to think that there was something I could have said, some note I could have passed along, or some button I could have pushed to help someone such as my Uncle avoid such a fate. However I've learned in last couple of years that most of the time there is no such magic button to be pressed, that someone's combined biological, economic, and personal issues can make such a fate preordained.

Still, I have to think that such fates can be avoided and that my Uncle is somewhere in the great beyond and may be casting unneeded forgiveness at those who were completely unable to do anything. Guilt is probably an inappropriate emotion, but it is a very effective salve particularly to those who should in actuality be carrying none; those who usually in such circumstances would feel regret and sorrow; those who hardly know the subject of their concern.

I can be a bit of an airhead especially when it comes to family relationships; but this one is not all on me, in fact none of it is. Goodbye Uncle Tom. I hardly knew you, but unfortunately I think you wanted it like that**.

*This would have been back in the late seventies/early eighties so there wasn't much amusement outside of my grandparents subscription to On TV.
**Not my warmest obit, that's what makes it all the sadder...

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