You know, life can really suck sometimes. I guess I ought to start off by telling you about the weekend road trips I’ve taken over the last five weeks.
It all started out with an e-mail telling me my uncle Terry from Lyons had gotten seriously ill and was in intensive care at the Promise Regional, Medical Center in Hutchinson. My youngest son and I headed to Hutch to see him. He was really in bad shape and it was hard for him to talk but he did know who we were and I really believe he was glad to see us. I took that as a positive sign. My son wasn’t so sure. Anyway, the trip home that afternoon was pretty quiet.
A few days later I received another e-mail informing me that my uncle had been moved back to Lyons and was receiving Hospice care to make his final days as comfortable as possible. I drove out to Lyons the following weekend to see him one last time. He was still in really bad shape but like the previous visit in Hutch, he knew who I was and he knew his time was about up. We didn’t talk much. I did thank him for all the cool things he used to do for my brothers and I when we were kids. Then I told him goodbye for what I was sure would be the very last time.
Three days later I received another e-mail concerning Terry. I just stared at it for a while. It was one of those you really don’t want to open. But when I did, I learned that Terry had improved considerably and was being released from Hospice care. That prompted another trip the following weekend. When I got there he was sitting up in his wheel chair eating lunch. I couldn’t believe this was the same guy I’d just said my final goodbyes to just a few days earlier. We talked for quite a while that day. He was totally pumped that his Cardinals were headed to the Super Bowl. And he just as pumped about Obama being our new president. I stared to argue with him about that but figured there wasn’t really any point in going there. He asked about my wife and kids and wanted to know how my brothers were doing. I told him instead of telling him about them, we’d just all load up next weekend and he could see them for himself.
So we did. The following weekend fifteen of us in four vehicles headed back to out to Lyons. It was such a good visit. He was really proud of the fact that he was now a “great-great uncle.” And he started telling stories about me and my brothers when we were little. One particularly embarrassing, story involving yours truly, my grandpa, and what I thought was a bear trying to kill me really cracked him up. We took a bunch pictures and he made me promise I’d make him copies so he could show off his great-great nieces and nephews to his friends. I assured him I would and that I’d see him in a couple of weeks. And off we went.
I got up early last Sunday morning and like always, put on a pot of coffee and checked my e-mail. The first one was simply titled “Terry.” I guess I was expecting to find out he was still recovering and getting stronger by the day or something, I don’t know. Well, that’s not exactly the way it worked out. It was to inform me that my uncle Terry had passed away about three hours earlier and to assure me he had died peacefully. The news hit me pretty hard. I guess mainly because it caught me off guard.
I’ve had a few days now for the news to soak in so it’s easier to talk about. But I’ve also had time to realize that because my uncle has passed on, the designation of “family elder” has been passed on to me.
I’m not sure, but I think there’s a certain level of responsibility that comes with the title of family elder. I’ll do my best from here on out not to bring outright shame to my family and all that stuff. Also, depending on how you look at it, it kinda makes me the boss.
Problem is though, because time marches on, it’s just a temporary position. I don’t know how long my reign as family elder will last. But I do know, the countdown has begun. Tic Toc.
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