Thursday, 18 January 2018
The Death of My Uncle: The Examination of My LIfe Print E-mail
News - Opinion
Written by B|V|N Newsroom   
Friday, 10 August 2012 22:33

A Look at My Own Life After The Death of My Uncle
 by Jack W Porter, Jr.

I just learned my uncle, James Fry, died last week at the age of 78. He had been suffering from cancer for the last few years and it had spread into his brain. His family had refused to allow my mother to see him but a few weeks ago I learned he was at Community Regional Medical Center and I made arrangements for her to visit with him one last time.

I respected his family's wishes and did not go to see him myself. My mother, however, after having heard his illness had progressed to the point that he had been admitted to the hospital, was having trouble sleeping and said that she felt she needed to take what might be her last opportunity to tell her brother that she loved him one last time. So I helped her find him. Apparently he welcomed her visit and for an hour they were as close as they used to be.

I know you are suppose to speak well of the dead. I know that what happened in the past is suppose to stay there. But there is a lot I am still learning about my own life.....from the way my uncle's lived his.

My uncle was a verbally abusive, judgmental and at times racist man. He was a person who could not control his liquor and his abuse was magnified when he drank. I can't recall how many times I heard him refer to my Aunt Fran (his wife) as "stupid" or "an idiot". He had two sons and I never understood how they could stand by and watch their mother be verbally abused by this man.

I know both of my cousins will deny this now but growing up they couldn't wait to get out of their father's house. My older cousin took off for Salinas as soon as he could and has never looked back even when his career in law enforcement came to a premature end due to injury.

My uncle tried to control the lives of the people in his family. He had two boys. One grew up in the seventies, played guitar and excelled on the football and baseball fields. He was the pride of my family. The younger grew up in the eighties and wasn't as good at sports but excelled in music. My uncle had a hard time accepting that he wasn't going to shine in sports, judging him harshly just because his talents were different than his older brother's.

My uncle had a hard time accepting anything he could not control. This is probably why, in his eyes, I turned out to be the black sheep of the family. We had a falling out 28 years ago when I said something I regret to this day to my Aunt (his sister). It was a stupid thing an ignorant kid might say to hurt someone. My uncle used this to try an ostracize me from the family.

The current tensions between my Mother, myself and the rest of the family weren't always there. When my other uncles were alive and well they wouldn't allow their brother  to treat my family with the disrespect we now enjoy. But slowly over the last ten years as my uncles and aunts have passed from this life, this uncle came to exert more influence over the rest of the family and the result was that mother and I have been cut out, excluded.

My mother has been in the hospital for serious health problems every year for the last six. A few times she was close to death. Neither of my cousins could be bothered to see her. Neither of my surviving uncles would take the time to see her. Her twin brother, Bud was less than 200 miles from the Sacramento hospital she was in and asked me if he "really needed" to make the trip.

Uncle Jim and my mother used to be as close as a brother and sister could be. Their other siblings moved to Nevada, but my uncle and mom remained in the Fresno area and watched out for my grandparents. Uncle Jim often spoke of being very upset about his siblings moving away from Fresno and I think he resented the lack of help with caring for the families older generation. At least partly because she stayed, Uncle Jim used to tell me, "No one in this family is worth a damn except for your mother."

Last night my mother and I were asked by his sons not to attend Uncle Jim's funeral. This seemed to me to be the final insult and the catalyst for me writing this truthful obituary to my uncle.  I have decided it's more important to me to tell the truth than to continue to try and court my remaining family's acceptance. There's a line in the musical "Wicked" - 'too long I've been afraid of losing love I guess I've lost...well, if that's love, it comes at much too high a cost'.  It's not often that a song sums up how I feel as completely as that line does.

I'll admit this obituary is to some extent my way of getting the last word in a situation where I feel we have been treated unfairly. But it's also about trying to gain some understanding about all that has happened and possibly even putting some level of closure on this section of my life. Who knows? It may even end up being helpful in some way to some other individual or family that is suffering through the same issues with a person like my Uncle Jim.

So what have I figured out from this experience? Several things stand out as important. First, If you have a dream, go for it. Don't let someone from an older generation bully you into a life you did not chose. If your passion is music, then find the courage to follow your passion and take it as far as you can, instead of living only to please a parent.

If someone in your family doesn't accept your choices, don't let it eat at you. They are your choices to make. I have been working on a computer from my home since 1989 and making a living. None of my uncles understood how a website can be a legitimate business. But its no longer surprising to anyone that there are thousands of people doing it every day now that the internet is such a large part of our lives.

But even if I were doing something truly unconventional, my choice is no one else's business as long as I'm paying my bills, supporting my family, following all laws and still making myself happy. I hope and strive to have the same attitude about other's choices...even when it comes to advice for my own kids when they choose what they will be "when they grow up."

Don't let anyone in your family abuse another, even if it is just words. I think of the words I used with my ex-wife when we would argue. I think of the words I used with my step-son when he came out of the closet. I realize now that I was actually repeating my Uncle Jim's mistakes....things that had made me cringe when I first saw them. I wish there was a way of going back in time and erasing those words, but I can't. It's a realization that I made too late. I can only sincerely apologize for the past and resolve that the future will be different.

So here I am, in my forties and still dealing with hurtful words that I said in my twenties. Still dealing with the divorce hurtful words helped cause in my thirties. And now I'm looking backwards and trying to deal with the hurtful words that were said to me by Uncle Jim, as a role model in my formative years. It all makes me mindful of what needs to change. It's a huge reminder to be careful of the words I use with and around my kids today.  Am I leaving them with memories that they will think were positive and helpful when they look back as adults?

This is why I say I am stilling learning from my uncle. When I was a child I learned to see some of his "childish" attitudes as 'normal'. I used those misguided attitudes to make my own mistakes in life and for years I have laid some of the blame for those mistakes on  Uncle Jim because of it. But now, in trying to deal with his death I am learning more about myself and how to forgive him. I am learning to take more responsibility for the mistakes I made in following his example. I am learning that sometimes your elders are just human and can be very wrong in their opinions about people.

I know he would never believe it but I do love my uncle and long for the relationship that never was. I can't finish writing this without trying to say something nice about the man and his life. My uncle truly loved his family. He just didn't know how to show it. He seemed to think control was love.

He loved all five of his grandchildren even if they weren't his by blood. Did he try to control them? I know he had to deal with some issues with one but by the time they were growing up I was no longer a part of their family life, so I don't know. I would like to think that Uncle Jim also learned from his errors, accepted their life's and life styles, and that in the end all he had for them was love.



Mark 11:25



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