This past weekend, we went to visit my Uncle Lou and Aunt Chris in Connecticut. Lou is my mother’s little brother, and the only remaining Uncle I have. Since my mother has been dead for 22 years and my dad for 12, Lou and Chris have acted much like parents to me, for which I will forever be grateful. By the time I had children, my mom had been gone for years and my dad wasn’t really in any kind of health to participate. Lou and Chris made a fuss. They visited and cooed, and sent gifts and made me feel like my children would have a little bit of the giant family I had when I was growing up.
Over the years, these two people have given me so much psychologically that it’s hard to quantify. One of the most beautiful things we’ve done together is to celebrate Thanksgiving at their house each year. It’s tradition. Sometimes there are loads of people, sometimes just my family, but always there is too much food, and a lot of laughs and enough love to package and send overseas to those less fortunate. We’ve been to the Vineyard together, and Italy, too.
Louie has always been a whirlwind of activity. A vibrant firecracker of a guy. Never one to sit still, he was always building something, fixing what was broken, gardening, cooking, eating, or driving 20 miles out of his way for chicken that was 39 cents a pound instead of 59 cents a pound. A history teacher turned real estate agent, his passion for life was big as the gosh darn moon.
He is 91 now. And he has severe dimentia. He no longer has speech. Always a big guy, my Italian uncle has lost so much weight, even with my bad back, I could probably pick him up. He now has around the clock nurses in his home. He walks up and down the stairs upward of 100 times a day. Even the nurses can barely keep up. Even with more than nine decades tucked under his belt, you can’t keep this guy down.
It was terribly hard to see him this weekend. I know he has had a great life. And I know that we are nearing the end of it. My aunt, who has been with Lou since she was 17, is trying to let go, but with Lou in and out of her face 20 times a day, she is constantly reminded that she is losing her life partner, and she can’t quite catch up to it. Who could? How do you cope with life when it’s this real?
There’s so much more to say about endings and getting older, and accepting the way life rolls out. But I am sad today. I am sad, but I am grateful. But mostly, I am sad. And that’s the best I can do.