Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Death and Dying

My parents both spent most of their lives without Mothers. Both their biological Mom's passed away before both were 10 years old. It was difficult not to have that maternal influence. That loving touch and kind spirit.

They grew up with tough Father's that didn't treat them that great. Which is truly fascinating, seeing as I grew up with an abundance of love and support from both my Mom and Pops. I've come to recognize that intelligent people try to fill the vacancies that were left from their parents and implement that which was missing.

For my parents it was love and affection. It was coming to my games and being my biggest fan. It was staying up late talking politics with Pops and shopping with my Mom. It was going to Church with Mom on the holidays and working out with my Dad in the gym.

The uncountable hours they spent with me is something I cherish because I realize that many people aren't so lucky. In fact, they weren't.

Hence, I grew up without a Grandma on my Mom's side. And a very strained relationship with my Father's stepmother. My grandfathers sadly passed away when I was fairly young.

And so I had two surrogate Grandfather's. Great Uncle's to be precise. One on my Father's side and one on Mom's.

And they couldn't be more different.

The one on my Pop's side is vitriolic and stubborn. He's obnoxious and mean. He's also incredibly bright and handsome. In his mid 90's he has a full head of hair and and a mouthful of vitriol. He reads the NY Times and writes letters to the editor to The Arizona Republic. Rarely if ever published, he's never discouraged. He votes. He cares about the world even when his window of it is increasingly shrinking. He was a great tennis player well into his 60's. He picks oranges from his trees. He plays cards with the neighbors...until they kick him out for being an as@#$%^.

Uncle Eddie, on my Mom's side, is a very kind man. With a wry sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye, he's always smiling. When he was younger he served in the Navy and he was an avid bowler and golfer. He even hit a few hole-in-ones and bowled a perfect game. He grew up in a house in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And never moved.

Well, until he collapsed a couple years ago in his home and my Mother flew him to Colorado to live with my family. He's been confined ever sense to the TV room and his bedroom. My Mom, to encourage his blood movement, places M&M's throughout the house in glass bowls. If he makes it to the bowl, he can eat them, if not, then no chocolate goodness.

An excellent system.

Lately Uncle Eddie has been on the decline. Rapidly. He has half the hemoglobin he should (he smoked most of his life). He has tremendous pain and no energy. He can't stand up. He has bedsores because for the past week, he's unable to get out of bed.
In short, he's dying. And it could come any day.

My Mother asked him if he would like a blood transfusion and be relegated to a hospital. He declined. She asked him again. And he has no interest. Our family respects his choice.

I believe he understands it's his time to go, and he'd prefer to be surrounded with family.

Uncle Eddie never accomplished much in his life. He never bothered anyone and never married. But he is still a lovely man. He helped take care of my Mother when she was young. And when I traveled to visit him, he was always teaching us how to swing the old clubs around. In his house, actually.

Death is certain. And we never know when we'll enjoy our last day.

I want to send out my love to my Uncle Eddie today.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry Con, I know how much he means to you and your family. I wish your family all the best and you'll be in my thoughts.

~Wu tang ;)

Bucu said...

So sorry to hear about this. I'm going through something similar with my family - my uncle was just diagnosed with colon cancer last month and was given about 4-5 more months. My thoughts will be with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Gee Con: What a great reflection and understanding of life..of love..of death..You are right about it being a hard time..We can give no greater gift than to just give a loving presence at this time...All the comforts we can think of mean so much more than we realize...You brought a lot of joy to your uncle those special times you spent with him...He holds on to those fleeting memories now, and they help him smile..Thanks for this...xoMOM

Anonymous said...

without death, would we know life? death brings a balance to all things at the same time a certain melancholoy peculiar to our mamals.
uncle harold sounds frustrated while uncle eddie sounds simple.your folks had it tough with only one parent,is this a black family?
did you ever wonder why death is black but the ascent to heaven is always bright white? was this theory part of the right-white supremist culture? why not a black light into heaven. i want mine in YELLOW!!!!!!