Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grieving After the Fact

I was somewhat dumbfounded yesterday when my only living uncle on my father’s side called to say his wife had died LAST MONTH. Of course I offered my sympathy, but I really wanted to ask why no one had bothered to tell me when it happened.

This is a family that is literally disappearing. Of the 4 brothers, one died in childhood (mowed down on his bicycle by a team of runaway horses) and 2 others including my father have died in the past 10 years, leaving only Rodger still alive. Of the 4 children in my generation, only 2 of us have married and I am the only one with children.

Rodger is 89 years old, still living in his house of the past 50+ years, still mowing his own grass. I asked him how he spends his days. He was happy to tell me he meets up with 6 other old guys every morning for FREE coffee at the Chick-Fil-A. It’s free because he bought a cup for $15 that entitles him to a lifetime of coffee refills. So he drinks his cup of coffee and then takes one home. He and my father shared a depression mentality when it came to spending money.

He collected old typewriters, at one point having several hundred of them. He has a house full of antiques, including 3 pianos that will not be played now that his wife is no longer living.

He said he might like to travel back to Minnesota where the family came from for a visit, but thought it might not be possible because he didn’t have anyone to watch the house. I said, “Rodger, just turn off the water and go. Are you afraid someone’s going to steal a typewriter or two?” He chuckled but will probably not leave home.

His only child, a son who is now 60, runs a health food store in the small town of Friendsville, Maryland, some 7 hours away from where Rodger lives in Hampton, Virginia.

I’m guessing he is really lonely now that his wife is gone and his son is so far away. I’m thinking about going down to see him to spend the day just hearing the remaining stories about this family that is shrinking.

I’m still wondering why no one thought to call me when my aunt died last month.


Blogger Cyndy said...

So sorry to hear about your aunt. It is very strange that your uncle didn't tell you. Maybe he didn't tell anyone. Older people often become rather eccentric about certain things. Maybe he just waited until he felt comfortable talking about it.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- It's unclear how it occurred to Rodger to call me. He started with a question: "Did you know Carol died last month?" It might have been when he was going through the many cards he received and he didn't see one from me that it reminded him that I might not know. From his question, he must have been fairly certain that he hadn't told me of her death.

I really shouldn't be so surprised from a family that doesn't hug and simply doesn't show any emotion EVER! My mother always said it was because they were Norwegian.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

How close were you to this aunt and uncle? And it is odd that not even your cousin thought to tell you. It's sad when we don't get a chance to say goodbye. There must be a lot of disappearing families now that many people no longer have large numbers of children.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- We were not close, but we are what remains of this family nonetheless. I would certainly have driven down to attend the funeral if I had known about it. My aunt and uncle did attend both of my parents' funerals.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I am so sorry for your loss and for the sense of confusion that's accompanied it. In my family, I could definitely see something like this happening - the lack of communication. But if you're not accustomed to it, I'd imagine it's somewhat shocking.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- I find myself taking on blame for not staying closer in touch with these people. Maybe they didn't realize how important my family is to me, especially now that we are dwindling.

1:06 PM  

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