My cousin asked me to share my favorite memory of her dad. As I went about my day yesterday I realized that there wasn’t just a trip, or a funny story, or a moment…it was how he lived. The fact that there is a handful of men that gave me hope that all fathers don’t walk out and abandon their children, who stay in relationships with their wives even when it isn’t easy and fun. Uncle Gene was a man who worked hard and took care of his family. Aunt Dee and Uncle Gene only had one child, Christene. In our large family we have the cousins, you become playmates and friends because you are around the same age. I was lucky that Chris and I are closest in age. Going to visit them in Toluca was always exciting, 20 miles away was a world away. Their house was safe, no drunk dad, no brothers and sisters fighting over who’s toy is who’s. No hand me downs, or having to share your mom, or food, or bedroom. And her dad, was always there. ALWAYS. He had an easy going vibe, positive, always smiling. To say perfect dad might be going too far, but from my point of view then, and now, he was this amazing protector, provider, supporter, that never gave up on his family. Even in the end, his thoughts were of his family.
We knew he was fighting cancer for several years. There always seemed to be something else to try, another round of this or that, Gene wanted to live, did what he could, until he was out of options. The Friday after Thanksgiving mom called as we were on our way to Williamsburg for a get away for my little family. He was leaving the hospital, hospice was called, medical company bring in a hospital bed. And in all of this…in the sad facts, knowing there is NOTHING ELSE that an be done, he wanted Dee to order a cake for Christene’s birthday. Who does that? No poor me, how can this be happening to me, what this man wanted was his daughter, who was the light of his life, to make sure she had a good birthday. If you are unclear about what unconditional love is, this is it.
So as Christ is in Florida hanging out with her dad while we all know his days are numbered. And in every picture she sends me he looks so happy and he is smiling. Who does that?!? He doesn’t look like a man who isn’t going to live to Christmas. He looks just like the man he always has been, a dad who loves his little girl. (Who BTW fought her own battle with cancer 5 years earlier and I am sure uncle gene would have said his fight was NOTHING compared to watching his daughter go through what she went through. That is the kind of man he is/was.)
So my favorite memory of my Uncle Gene is just how much he loved his daughter. He set the bar impossibly high. Gene allowed me to see how a father and husband should be since I had bad first hand experience. Sometimes when we are hanging out with my family, and there is always 20 some people total with the Onnie’s and everyone is loud and teasing each other about golf or weight or whatever the 60, 70 year old brothers and sisters joke about, I look at Boomer, who is just smiling. And I think he’s an Uncle Gene.
I am trying to find pictures, to flood FB with them, this is the first one I came to, it was easter and as Madigan and Gabe were looking for eggs, Uncle Gene standing near the road, protecting the kids in case a car came by.
“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”
― David Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
Let’s never stop speaking our loved ones name. Don’t think avoiding speaking of the dead helps the living. Not talking about our loved ones who passed isn’t protecting our feelings, in fact, it denys who they are and how much the mean to us in our life and still after death. Keep speaking their names and we keep them alive in our world.