Monday, November 2, 2009

Memories & Tears

As many of my regular readers know, we lost my nephew in early August. He would have turned 44 today.

Of my various losses within the last few years, this has been one of the hardest for me to accept. We were fairly close in age and my mother practically raised him until his early teens when he went to live with his Dad. We were more like brother and sister than aunt and nephew. My immediate family is small and we've stayed close. We spent all our holidays together, celebrated children's birthdays together and exchanged e-mails several times a week. Each morning when I check my mail, I expect to see some new internet joke or quiz or such, and once again my heart aches.

I am writing this post several days ahead of time, partly because we'll be away and I won't have internet access on the 2nd and partly because I know I won't feel up to doing it then.

He was born about 6 weeks early and was a skinny, scrawny looking baby with long dangly arms and legs. His father was quite upset and claimed he reminded him of a spider. My thoughts ran more to a monkey but then, I was, and still am terrified of spiders, and tried not to think about them when possible. As a little kid of 4 or so he played my hero rescuing me from many a spider.

My vision of him as a "monkey" was quickly supported by his ability to climb. If he could get a toe-hold, he climbed, no matter what it was. If there wasn't enough texture for a toe-hold, he shimmied up whatever it was. By the time he was 3, he could shimmy up just about any door frame and hang from the top by his fingertips. Once, when he was about 5, we caught him shimmying up a flagpole. He was actually high enough to be out of my dad's reach and he was ordered to slide down immediately!

I remember shopping with him and having him pop up out of the top of one of those round clothing racks. He didn't mind shopping as he made a game of it. Back then, even discount stores (predecessors of Walmart, Target, Marshall's, etc.) had mannequins . Tom discovered how to unscrew their hands and feet and would busy himself doing so throughout the clothing department. You could always trace his whereabouts by following the various dismembered mannequins! (He was good. He always left the parts laying next to where he found them.)

Most of the dressing rooms then had chairs near their entrance where people would leave their children or spouses sitting while they tried something on. (You could take your eyes off your kids back then without worrying.) He'd dutifully sit down, promising to wait patiently. About the time we'd get stripped to our undies, we'd realize he was crawling along the dressing rooms, looking under the curtain to locate us by our feet or shoes. How embarrassing!

He played football in high school and started college majoring in computer assisted drafting. Shortly, he joined the Marine Corps, a calling he loved. He served in the South Pacific and then in Desert Storm. He anticipated being a career man with the Corps but ensuing knee problems would have limited his assignments and he wanted to settle down and start a family. (He had married before heading to the desert.) Tom had always loved children and related well with them. In return, most worshipped him. He was a favorite and well-loved uncle. Fertility eluded them and the marriage eventually failed.

He developed new medical problems, suffering a heart attack and undergoing by-pass surgery in his 30s. Additional health problems ended his new career as a commercial truck driver. He took a less demanding job and became close with the members of that family-owned business. He got engaged. His fiancee came complete with grown children and a grandson. He adored that little boy.

He died from a massive coronary sitting in his parked car on a shopping center parking lot. He had stopped for groceries on his way home. Tom believed a military funeral was the highest honor one could show a veteran. He was well honored.

Once a Marine, always a Marine!

I just wanted you all to know what a great guy we've lost. Thank you for indulging me.

I will always miss him.

1 comment:

Holly said...

I'm very sorry to hear that you're still dealing with the tragedy that comes along with losing someone as close as he was to you. It's really sweet that you took the time to honor him on his birthday, and I hope you'll be able to enjoy yourself while you're away even despite the great sense of loss you've been feeling.