Tag Archives: memories

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.

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

Little Shoes

The other day the gardener and I were in California, on a solidly packed freeway, and a truck that pulled ahead of us on the right drew my attention. Hanging out of the back, one on each side, were two bundles of children’s shoes. They were strung together by a rope or perhaps laces, and they looked a bit like little herb pots hanging on the wall.

What I thought: they are shoes without the children.

These were not shoes being transported somewhere, but rather a decoration to the truck itself. The trailer portion of the truck was smallish, but not too small, and without windows.

Maybe somebody would look at those shoes and think how cool it was that a dad was hauling mementos of his children around. I, on the other hand, immediately thought of serial killers and their trophies.

I shouldn’t let my mind loose sometimes, especially since I prefer the lighter side of life.

At home, I dug out my own kids’ outgrown shoes for a little throw-back mama time:

Did they not have the sweetest little shoes? The print canvas shoes my son loved to show off, and the red Chinese shoes he wore with a white turtleneck and black velveteen pants with suspenders to his legal adoption (a few hours after he fell off the bed and cracked his head between his eyes ugh). My daughter’s little “running shoes” with pink interiors, and the white Mary Janes she wore to her special naming ceremony. The rubber Korean shoes sent with my children when they arrived from Korea. Lots of memories there.

Then I took a look at somebody else’s memories. My mother-in-law’s collection of the gardener’s out-grown shoes.

Because I wasn’t around when he wore these shoes, they hold no memories for me. Because they hold no memories I am free to create stories in my head. Kinda like I did when I saw the shoes hanging off the back of the truck.

Writing question: do you think it’s easier to write fiction if you have information but not specific memories? Or do memories feed your fiction?

Blogging question: when you’re writing non-fiction do you ever have leaps of imagination that try to send you into fiction? Like embellishment or even creating fictional stories for your blog?

I am going to close comments for this post, but I hope these questions give you something to think about for today!

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The poetry reading went well. It was a very small crowd because it’s summer in Phoenix (imagine that!), and many were gone or found it too hot. But I had a lot of fun, met some new people, and what a sweet little art gallery with coffee bar.

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Filed under Blogging, California, Family history, History, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing Talk