Wednesday, December 28, 2005

When the Phone Rings

My mom just called. It's odd for her to call at 7 on a Wednesday night. Once I saw the caller ID, I immediately thought, someone just died. Who? Grandparents (all 4 are still around and doing great, can you believe that?) Dad? A sudden heart attack? Fuck.

I pick up the handset, press talk. "Jack," she starts, "I wanted you to know that Uncle Rick passed away this morning."

I was surprised by the knot in the back of my throat, as much as I wasn't surprised by his death. He had been suffering from bone cancer that had recently spread to his brain. He had been ill for years. It wasn't a surprise.

And he wasn't necessarily a great guy. He had been a Marine in Korea, and he carried that with him all his life (think: the neighbor in American Beauty). His temper and unpredictable moods could scare me. Over time, he became reclusive around family, would disappear into his study during our visits, alway working on writing his mysterious book. He left my aunt - my Mom's sister - once my cousins had graduated from high school. For several years after, a couple of his children barely spoke to him.

But I also remember this: in his good moods, he was as entertaining, as funny, as loving an uncle as I ever knew. At their pool, he could throw you as high as anyone, making a tremendous splash. When we were little, he would "make pizza" with us: "roll" us out on the floor, pretend to spread sauce and throw toppings on us, tickle us with a sprinkling of mozzarella, shove us into a pretend oven, pull us out, and then tickle us again as he would pretend to make slices. We would laugh until it hurt.

In later years, we learned that he was a recovering alcoholic, sober for decades, that he suffered from manic depression, had secretly beaten pancreatic cancer.

So my tears welled up, for the good of who he had been, the struggles he had overcome, for the fact that my cousins - at my age - had lost their father. And I was surprised at how strongly I wept.


Blogger Mason said...

I am very sorry to hear of your loss. I know it isn't something that is easily dealt with.....I wish I could do something for you. Hang in there buddy. :)

8:34 PM  

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