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March 27, 2009

Family matters

Every year, I walk for our Relay for Life team at my school. I walk as a Survivor (14+ years) but I also walk in memory of my family members that lost their battle with cancer (my maternal grandfather, Anthony, 30 years ago and my father, Ken, 15 years ago) The Luminary ceremony is a very emotional one for me but it is also my favorite part of the walk because all the lights are turned off and no one can see me cry.

This year will be especially poignant because my uncle Carl lost his fight with brain cancer this morning. He beat the prostate cancer that, 30 years ago, would have been enough to take him. When they found cancer in his brain, though, we all knew that it was bad. He was sent home from the hospital a few weeks ago and they had hospice care and that is never a good sign. He went on morphine a few days ago and that was how he went, in a morphine haze, hopefully at peace at last.

Uncle Carl was a cool guy, ex-military, ex-cop, with a quick wit and an infectious smile. He had his demons, fighting alcohol and a painkiller addiction brought on by trying to self-medicate against the depression that plagues our family, against the daily pain from the self-inflicted gunshot wound in his shoulder. The last few times I saw him, I could see a big change in his personality, an urgency to prove he was still young, still tough, which I found odd. He had always been the easy-going one, his intensity mostly evident in his bright blue eyes, Grampy's eyes. Last time he was here, his eyes were decidedly older, more tired and slightly clouded, as if he was resigned to the fact that his fight was nearing its end and this was months before we all knew.

My mom and my sister are going to the funeral. I'll be staying here. Not avoiding the funeral but I can't afford a hotel room in Savannah, GA, nor can we be away from school/work for several days right now. My son's orchestra is in a concert festival Tuesday and my daughter's play opens next week and we most likely wouldn't be back until Wednesday or Thursday. Instead, I'll be here, writing my National Board Entry (due April 15) and feeling morose all weekend.

My favorite Uncle Carl memory: When Grampy died, I was 15 or so. After his long illness, the family was very emotional on the morning of the funeral, especially my mom. She had taken to flying into a rage at the least little thing and I was having a hard time staying out of her way.  No matter what I did, it was wrong and after letting my mother cry and rant and rave every day for 13 months about Grampy and the hospital and work, I was tired of being her punching bag. I had taken to my room, wishing that someone would realize that I had lost someone I loved too. Just before we were about to leave, Uncle Carl found me. We shared some wine and some memories and he helped me deal with the tons of people that were in my house. I got pretty drunk on that cheap rose but I also was allowed to grieve, something I hadn't been able to do until then.  

I love you, Uncle Carl. I'Il be walking in your memory this April, but this weekend, I'll be lifting a glass and thinking of you.
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This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on March 27, 2009 5:31 PM.

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