This week many of you will be preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving. In the US Thanksgiving always is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. This year that is November 22nd.
A day most Americans will never forget. Because it was also the day our President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963.
Most likely if you were over five or six years old on that day, you remember it. It was one of those historical moments one will never forget. I remember that day vividly and come this Thursday I will think of the Kennedy family and all they lost that day and have since.
But in our family, my mother also mourned on November 22nd also because that was the day her only brother died. They were very close as brothers and sisters often are. When he died another piece of her heart left with him. So on this Thanksgiving I will be thinking of my Uncle Jim—a very special man.
And today I’m reposting an earlier blog I did about him with some revisions. He deserves to be remembered.
Here’s to you, Uncle Jim.
These past several weeks have been busier and more stressful than usual. I’ve been responsible for caring for my disabled son. He’s a vent dependent quadriplegic—think Christopher Reeve a.k.a Superman. Neither one was disabled by Kryptonite but due to falls. Different circumstances for my son and Christopher Reeve, but the result was the same—a catastrophic life change. Neither one of them would ever be able to do anything for themselves again. They would always need care and responsible people around them.
Catastrophic for the injured party. Catastrophic for their families.
In our case one of the consequences is that if we can’t leave our son alone. Often we must miss events or appointments if we can’t get help with caring for him. Sometimes we can’t plan on this. People get sick, have accidents, die. That often messes with a schedule or free time. But since we’ve been dealing with this for 18 years, we know if we aren’t around to shoulder his cares, he’s in big trouble.
But several years ago, 2002 I think, my uncle and godfather died on this day. The funeral would be held very close to the holiday and the deer hunting seasons in Wisconsin. Either one of those pretty much decimates our help. (The women expect time off to celebrate/prepare for the holiday and the men often want off for hunting. And so it was in 2002.)
Because of this situation and the distance between where I lived and where my uncle did, I was without help to care for me son and couldn’t get to Minnesota for his funeral or to the small farming community in Iowa where he would be buried. I felt so bad then about that at the time. I still do.
But I knew then and still do, that Uncle Jim understood why I wasn’t there. By staying positive about my responsibilities to my son I was honoring my uncle in a manner he always understood. Why? Because he practiced that responsibility to family himself. And by his example he passed that characteristic on.
Of course, Uncle Jim had a fantastic example in his father and mother. Both were always about family and being nurturers. My grandfather even extended that to his occupation as a farmer. He nurtured and cared his land and his animals as he did his family and his friends.
Uncle Jim nurtured his family, raising 6 children with his wife Jeanette. Most of his adult life he owned a successful gasoline/repair station. I guess he also nurtured other people’s cars as well as his own since he prided himself on keeping his cars in tip-top shape for at least 200,000 miles. When he come to visit his mother or later my mom after Dad died, he’s always busy himself finding little things that needed tending.
As an adult my uncle and I lived a great distance from each other. However, my connection and deep affection for him never faltered. I loved his quiet sense of humor. I admired how hard he worked in his life to provide the best life possible for his family. I loved that he always honored his parents; I adored them.
I remember as a little girl and before he married, he tried to quit smoking. He always had a carrot in his pocket or a toothpick. I suspect he started smoking when he was in the service during WWII because my grandfather hated the smoking habit.
My Uncle Jim was younger than my mom but always her big brother. She loved him dearly In the last few months of her life when I was staying with her at night, she would talk of her brother and different experiences they shared growing up. A few days before she died she mentioned she was ready because she would soon be with those who went before her, especially Jim and my dad.
And that reminds me of another part of Uncle Jim. He helped me to understand my father and the complex man that he was. They were very different Uncle Jim and my dad. But they respected each other. They loved each other. Uncle Jim told me once he’d never forget that my dad drove my Gram, Uncle Jim’s mother, to Minnesota when Uncle Jim was very ill. He reminded me my dad had a sense of family and I should never forget it. (Sometimes that wasn’t easy with my dad and me.)
And another special memory I treasure concerns a strawberry milkshake. I was at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and had endured two extensive and very long surgeries on my back. I’d not been able to keep any food down for over a week. The result—I wasn’t starting to heal. My uncle and aunt came down for the weekend. My mom who was staying up there to be near me was very worried. Uncle Jim had his usual calming effect and after about half an hour, he slipped from the room and returned later with milkshakes. Mom had strawberry so he got a tiny one for me. Just in case.
He teased me in his own special way, trying to get me to at least taste it. I had to try. After all, Uncle Jim asked.
That shake tasted so good. Even better it stayed down. Before he left the next day, he managed to get another one down me. Two weeks later I was finally able to go home.
I swear that shake was what started my healing process. Thank you, Uncle Jim.
So every year, Thanksgiving comes around. So does November 22nd. Every year I’m spending more time caring for my disabled son. And every year I think of Uncle Jim and how he helped shape me to be the caregiver I’ve become. It’s tradition. It’s family. I’m thankful I had Uncle Jim in my life.
Did you have a favorite aunt or uncle? Care to share why?