Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A very sad day

My mother called today to tell me my Uncle Leo passed away suddenly.

I was shocked. He was one of my favorite uncles and one of the younger ones. My father's parents had eight children. Seven boys and one girl. Leo and my father were about in the middle and when they were younger they were very much alike in looks and mannerisms. So much so that Mom used to kid Dad that if she had met Leo first...! When my sibs and I were minors my parents named Leo in their will as our guardian should anything happen to them. He was the one most like my father. We adored him.

Leo was a gifted handyman. He always had a project of some kind going on. My RX-7 was one of his projects. He saw the car sitting abandoned in someone's yard, bought it and fixed it up. He sold it to my dad who later sold/gave it to me. Leo also worked on homes. He helped my father enclose a patio and add an extension to the roof a few years ago. He repaired a butane line at my grandmother's place. He helped my aunt and her husband with their recent home remodeling. He fixed his daughter's Florida home after a hurricane. There was nowhere he and his tools wouldn't travel.

When Leo ran out of family members to help, he helped the poor. He bought old but serviceable appliances, fixed them up and gave them to people who needed them. If he knew of someone who needed an air conditioner, he bought them one. If a roof or a porch needed fixing, he and his tools were there.

And today he is gone.

After my grandmother passed away in November 2003, my cousins and I wondered, hardly daring to say the words aloud, who would be next. Whose death would shatter the monolith of these seven tall, strong men who had once been energetic farm boys and who used to play pickup basketball in dusty New Mexico railroad towns? Oh sure, they had their differences sometimes. All brothers do. But they were always there for each other. No matter your disagreements of the morning, if you needed a place to sleep that night, a brother would always take you in.

The boys (and one girl) taught me and my cousins the same lesson. You never turn your family away. Whatever they need, whenever they need it, you give. We don't talk to each other often, us cousins, but we stick up for each other and when we're together it's always a good time. When our grandparents were alive, we saw each other every few years for a big family reunion celebrating their wedding anniversary and it was the most fun ever.

And now it seems we get together only for funerals.

I knew this day was coming. I didn't think it would come so soon, though. And I didn't think it would be Leo. Pete, the oldest, seemed the most likely candidate. Do things in order, right? Or maybe Mike, who has had some medical problems and is temperamental. (Isn't a hot temper supposed to shorten your life?) Or maybe Bill, who carries a bit of a pudge. Maybe even my own father, horrifying thought. Dad's become spacey in recent years and his new job puts him on the road a lot. I worry. Who am I to assume it will be my father who is the last man standing?

But Uncle Leo the first? Not him! Why him?

It's so not right. It's so not fair.

No word yet on funeral arrangements, or if I'll even be able to go. Everyone is still in shock. How can there be such a sudden hole in the family? How did Death sneak in like that without warning? And what does it bode for the rest of us now that Death has entered my parents' generation?

It's all too much, too soon. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Death doesn't play fair. Not that I'm surprised, but I didn't need this sharp a reminder today. I don't need it tomorrow and I won't need it the day after that.

Go, Death. You've done your mischief. You've taken my sister's boyfriend, my techie's wife and the near relations of several other near aquaintances recently. Now you have my uncle. Be satisfied with your harvest from my neck of the woods and move on.

Godspeed, Leo. Keep Grandpa and Grandma good company. You are loved and missed desperately here below.

Billy Joel was right. Only the good die young.

1 comment:

Nightmare said...


Thank you for the kind words on my sad tale as well. I do belive that they know and see more then we will until it is our time. My Mom was with my grandfather when he died and she said that it was the most awesome and saddening experiance of her life and if I get the chance to be with a loved one at the exact moment they pass it is life changing.

She quickly then said "I hope not soon" but I knew what she meant.

Thanks again, and I'll be back