Goodbye to My Uncle

Last Wednesday my Uncle Frank passed away. A month or so before, he had suddenly found it difficult to walk, so he asked a neighbor to take him to the ER. Before that moment, he seemed in remarkably good physical and mental health for someone 90 years old. Although they didn’t know what was wrong, they admitted my uncle to the hospital where he fluctuated between lucidity and not. They had him on a strong dose of morphine because the pain in his back and legs was so bad.

Then they sent him to a nearby nursing home where he spent his days slumped uncomfortably in a wheelchair. That is the point where my cousin, Frank’s only living child, called me.

For a few weeks, Frank went back and forth between the hospital and the nursing home, but he was never given a diagnosis. Even without the morphine, he began to lose his lucidity. It became impossible to talk to him on the phone because he didn’t know what to do with a telephone and his words were slurred.

Although it’s a long drive, my mother and brother in Kalamazoo were able to drive to Arkansas to see him. They reported that after their initial visit he no longer recognized anyone, so I decided there was no point in flying there to visit. My brother and cousin thought he might have a couple of weeks “left,” but still nobody knew what was wrong with him. The day after the nursing home decided to get him an appointment with a blood doctor, he passed away. My cousin called me from Uncle Frank’s bedside.

We still don’t know what was wrong with him. I think the nursing home did the best they could as they are not doctors, but I have to wonder what went on at that hospital. I have no legal rights in the matter, though, so there it lies.

I am left with the memories. My father and Uncle Frank were, like many twins, very very close. Frank also had a long and happy marriage with my Aunt Dolly who passed away from leukemia less than a year and a half ago. He would have been 91 the day after Christmas, the birthday he shared with his twin brother, my father. With Frank gone, since I am the oldest of the cousins, I am now the oldest person descended from my grandmother.

The first time the gardener and I spoke with Uncle Frank after he was admitted to the nursing home, the gardener made a joke to Uncle Frank about “his scotch.” Uncle Frank enjoyed scotch and soda, and he loved to cook and to eat. He once owned a steakhouse in Chicago, although most of his career was spent as a car salesman. He was very social and had a great many friends, many of them decades younger than himself. The gardener asked what he was drinking at the nursing home. In a very cryptic comment, Frank said, “Whatever Dolly had.” This comment chilled me.

After all, Frank’s white blood count was up, and his worst symptoms were the pain from his back and the inability to walk. These are all symptoms of leukemia.

I’ve written on this blog about visiting Uncle Frank after Aunt Dolly passed away–and also attached a link about the time he escaped death by a mass murderer. You can find both links here: Links to Uncle Frank articles

I could have selected a lot of photos for this blog post, especially ones where Frank is with my father and with Dolly. Or even one of myself with my beloved uncle. Instead, I chose a photo of him in his U.S. Navy sailor uniform (he served right after WWII) and a Christmas photo from Grandma’s home in 1967. On his lap is my cousin Leah (age 7) who passed away 16 years ago.

Rest in peace, Uncle Frank, Aunt Dolly, and Leah.

24 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Family history

24 responses to “Goodbye to My Uncle

  1. Lump in throat. Glad you’re making sure he’s remembered.

    I’m resavoring your “Kin Types” lately, where you’ve made sure ancestors and relatives are remembered. This morning’s treasure was “Once and Now.” The ending rends my heart.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute. He sounds like a fun person.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. Wonderful tribute. 🙂

  4. Lovely tribute to your uncle, Luanne. He sounds like a good man. xo

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad your uncle did not have to suffer too long between hospital and nursing home. That long, lingering seems the worst to me, especially when there is dementia (caused by being in the hospital or not). I like the way your uncle looks in the photo with your cousin–handsome and happy, full of love and spirit–a good way to remember him.

  6. Your grief is dearly conveyed here, Luanne, and we can appreciate Frank, your Dad, Dolly and Leah – as well as the loving oldest living descendant of Grandmother.

  7. Luanne,
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your uncle Frank. I just returned from a weekend trip to see my father in the hospital. Hugs.

  8. I’m sorry for your loss, Luanne but you have good memories to keep Uncle Frank alive in your heart. Thank you for sharing your tribute.

  9. the xmas photo was a good -one – and so was the navy one –
    and sorry for your loss – Uncle Frank seems like he touched lives and left the world a better place because he was in it….

  10. You have sweet memories to share. It’s hard when you can’t know what exactly happened at the end. It sounds like he had a good life with lots of love. My condolences to you and your cousins.

  11. I am saddened by your losses, Luanne. A beautiful tribute to them. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a lovely post, and I like the photos you chose.

  13. Oh! I am so sorry for your loss. Great tribute to your Uncle!
    Ciao
    Sid

  14. What a great tribute, thank you! x

  15. I’m very sorry for your loss Luanne. This is a wonderful tribute to your uncle.

  16. Living healthily into your nineties is a wonderful legacy to leave your family. I’m truly sorry to read though of the odd way your uncle’s life ended. It’s hard enough saying goodbye without adding in misdiagnosis or undiagnosis (if that’s a word). Now you are a senior member of the family and I know how that feels 🙂 This has been a special tribute to a beloved uncle Luanne, thank you for sharing your loss with us. xo

  17. He would have been pleased to read this. So sorry for your loss.

  18. Lovely tribute, Luanne. In this way we make sure our loved ones are never forgotten. ❤

  19. I am so sorry you dear uncle has passed away, Luanne! You are in my prayers. xx

  20. How terribly sad, Luanne. I’m sorry your beloved uncle is gone.

  21. You picked the best photos to share, and your tribute to him is heartbreakingly beautiful. Who knows what went on in that hospital. That you are left wondering is cruel, but I hope you can have some comfort in your memories and stories. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  22. Wonderful tribute, Luanne. I appreciate your deep connection to family. It seems at a time when families are sliding further apart, you keep close to yours. Please accept my condolences. It’s never easy to lose someone we love and especially when there are so many memories surrounding them. xo

  23. I am sorry for your loss. I love the photo.

  24. So saddened for your loss – what a great photo you posted, it says so much! 💕😥