November 22nd

Mom & Uncle Jim

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.

Uncle Jim and me

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.

From the cemetery–a view of Vail

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?

Explore posts in the same categories: Family deaths

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14 Comments on “November 22nd”

  1. Sandy Says:

    Casey, what a great post. Yes, I had a favorite uncle. Uncle Ray was always there for me and my sister. We adored him. He was in WWII, which I always heard changed him. To us he was wonderful. He died at 48. It was way too young for us to lose him. He was a huge influence on our lives.

    What an adorable picture of you and Uncle Jim.

    I’ll never forget the day President Kennedy died. It was second most shocking event to happen in my life. The first was when Uncle Ray died.

  2. Sandy,

    Yes, those shocking days we always remember. I’m so glad you had an Uncle Ray. Fortunately for me, Uncle Jim lived much longer than your Uncle Ray.

  3. Sad day for you, Casey, but I can tell you’re grateful that you were able to have these particular individuals in your life. Without them, your days would not have been filled with so much laughter and love.

  4. Patti,

    You are so right. I’ve been very fortunate to have such fantastic role models in my life.

  5. Casey, I hear that the 22nd often makes you sad, and then it also gives you joy. Joy that those who raised you and led the way for you, also taught you the importance of caring for others.

    Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  6. Sounds like your uncle was a wonderful man. I was very blessed to be so close to one of my grandmothers and several of her brothers and sisters. It helped to give me a happy childhood. I loved having such a close family. They are all gone now and terribly missed.

  7. Cyndie Says:

    With tears in my eyes as I read your post, I thank you with all my heart for sharing your remembrances of your Uncle Jim, my very special father, Daddy. He blessed us all with his gentleness and strength, his faith and love, his hope and fierce protection. I am forever grateful he was my Dad; I know he loved you with all his hear as his sister’s oldest child, his niece, his goddaughter. May you feel his strength even now as you carry out your tasks of caring for – the twinkle in his eye shines down on you/us and is with you/us always.

  8. Cyndie,

    I didn’t mention the twinkle in his eye–that was so distinctive especially when he was teasing in the way he did. It always struck me as special since it mirrored his dad’s my beloved Grampa D. Also his unique way to laugh which again reflected Grampa’s.

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope you and your family have the most blessed of holidays as we approach them.

  9. Florence,

    Fortunately, November 22nd doesn’t always fall on a Thanksgiving, but this year it does. I am very thankful I had such caring people surrounding me in my young life as the strength they exhibited and their traits have served me well in my adult life. Ah, role modeling…

    Have a lovely Thanksgiving in your new home.

  10. Jamie,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your memories of loving family members and holidays. This year you will be cooking–or not–in your beautiful new kitchen. I hope it is one of your best ever.

  11. Virginia McCullough Says:

    What a lovely post–it’s always great to hear stories about big close families. I never met one aunt and uncle and their families on my father’s side and had little contact with another uncle and his family, so these big holiday family dinners always sound like fun. We had big gatherings, though. My parents used to invite coworkers and friends whose families lived far away. Those groups of about 10, about all we could fit around our table in our relatively small apartment, were quite lively and interesting to me as a teenager–lots of conversation about books and politics and then funny stories these guests would tell. I soaked it all in.

    Some of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had involved going with my elderly parents to a communal potluck style Thanksgiving dinner at our Quaker meeting in Asheville. So different, and so much fun–and not much work for any one family or individual. Some people brought their visiting relatives along and that saved a lot of work for them, too. And for all I know, could have eased or diluted some family tensions–But with 35-45 people in the room, I found it added to my sense of community and shared gratitude.

    Well, I thought I nothing to say about aunts and uncles, but some awfully good childhood and adult Thanksgiving memories came up anyway. Thanks, Mary Jo

  12. Virginia,

    I loved hearing about your Thanksgivings shared among people not necessarily family. My brother and his wife who moved to CA in their 20s and have lived there ever since do much the same thing with their holidays since they rarely would be able to come home for them. They’ve accumulated and eclectic group of wonderful friends and neighbors who’ve become their “family” and have established traditions and interesting memories and stories as a result.

    Thank for sharing and have a lovely Thanksgiving.

  13. Kathy Goldenstein Says:

    I can only echo what my dear sister said about our Daddy. he was one special guy and still watching over all of us. I can’t believe it was ten years since I last saw that very special twinlkle in his eye or heard him say “I love you.” as I left his room to pick up my kids from school Will always be grateful that I said”I love you, too.” for I know it was the last thing I ever said to him. Miss him everyday but especially at Thanksgiving. Thanks Mary Jo for a glimpse into the man he was before he was my dad.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all the Kenosha relatives

  14. Kathy,

    I miss your dad also and his always gentle ways. I’m so glad the last thing you said to him was “I love you” as it’s such a positive last memory and not always a last moment people have with loved ones.

    As I’ve often said I didn’t come from a family blessed with wealth but I did come from a family blessed with love, ethics, faith and good sense. Your dad was integral to this.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving. Your dad would want that and I’m sure he and Aunt Jeanette are looking down and checking out all of you.

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