My mom is the oldest of six kids.
She was born in January of 1940. Her first brother, Jimmy, was born on December 7, 1941. On the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, my mother welcomed her brother.
She has doted on him his entire life. I mean, he tormented her.
Her life long terror of snakes is due to her brother. But even though one time he dumped a huge, nearly dead, black snake on her lap while she was talking on the phone to a friend, she still doted on him. They were teenagers at the time.
It wasn’t that he was mean, he was just him.
My mom told me about when my grandmother talked to the nuns about Jimmy at school. They told her he was an angel. That he was the most polite and kind boy. She must be so proud. My grandma said “My Jimmy?”
My Uncle Jimmy had a quiet sort of humor. He sometimes smiled. He rarely laughed. Honestly, I just assumed he laughed, I can’t recall hearing him laugh. But the humor? It was always on.
I don’t think so much that he tried to be funny as much as he was terminally curious as to how people would react in any given situation.
My earliest memory of this, was watching him squeeze lemon juice into my sister’s mouth when she was around 2. He wanted to see what kind of face she would make. In his defense, the faces were pretty funny.
Decades later, when my son Zach was around 3 years old, we were at my parents house on a Sunday. Uncle Jimmy was there to watch whatever sporting event was taking place at the time.
Zach had a small bowl of popcorn and as he neared the recliner my uncle sat in, my uncle said “Hey, kid. Give me some of that popcorn.”
I looked at Zach and said, “Don’t do it, baby. You just sit down and eat your popcorn.”
But, my kid was sweet and happy to share, so like a little lamb walking to slaughter, he handed my uncle the popcorn.
Uncle Jimmy scooped it all up, shoved as much as he could in his mouth and the rest just fell down his shirt.
He handed Zach back an empty bowl.
Zach looked at the bowl and then looked at me. His little face started to squish up they way kids do before they start to wail. I said “Sweetie. I warned you. Just go get some more popcorn. It’s fine.”
So he did. And as he walked past my uncle, my uncle made the same request.
I just looked at Zach and shook my head no. But did he listen to his mother? No, no he did not.
Then, the scene played out again. Just the same.
The third time my uncle asked for Zach’s popcorn, Zach told him no.
Uncle Jimmy smiled at him, pulled him up on his lap and they watched whatever sporting event was on while Zach ate his bowl of popcorn in peace.
I have dozens and dozens of these stories.
But Uncle Jimmy wasn’t all about pulling pranks or teasing kids.
His life wasn’t loud, but it was huge. He was a source of security. He was consistent. He may have loved pulling pranks, but if we needed something? He was there.
He and my aunt have 2 grandchildren. My uncle revolved around those kids like they were suns and he was a planet. I’ve been around a lot grandparents. I am a grandparent. That being said, I have never seen a grandparent dote on their grandkids quite like my Uncle Jimmy.
Last Friday, he was in his driveway getting ready to chainsaw something. He had a stroke, passed out, and fractured his skull in his driveway. He was awake for a bit. Then, he wasn’t. Then, he died.
Which is weird to me. I don’t understand a planet that doesn’t have my Uncle Jimmy on it. I just don’t.
I do sort of love that he died with a chainsaw in his hands. He died with a chainsaw in his hands. That sounds like the title of a movie where Danny Trejo plays the lead. I guess technically, he died in a hospital, but still. Glad he was getting ready to chainsaw something. Also very glad that he didn’t actually start the chainsaw up before passing out. Damn.
The last conversation I had with him was just before Christmas last year.
We were at my extended family Christmas party and were gathering our stuff up to leave. My Uncle Jimmy looked at me and said “Bye, sweetheart,”
I stared at him for a minute and said “What the shit is this? I’ve been alive for 56 years and I am pretty sure you have never once called me sweetheart,”
He looked at me for a moment and then said “Oh. I didn’t have my glasses on.”
I am good with this last conversation. I don’t think it is possible to improve upon.
It would be nice to see him one more time and tell him how much he meant to me. To tell him that I’ve always known he would be there for me if I needed him. I would tell him how much he means to my mother, his sister. How he has always been a comforting force in her life.
I mean, I’d tell him those things if I had my glasses on.
Photo courtesy of Splitshire