Today marks the fourth anniversary of my Uncle Jim's death. He died peacefully in his bed in the house built by his grandfather in the beautiful Bronx. Two of my other uncles and I were staying there overnight, as he had a scheduled doctor's appointment in Manhattan the following day, and we had to get him there on a timely basis. My aunt, the family matriarch, was having knee replacement surgery at the time, so she wasn't holding down the fort.
My uncle had been seriously injured as a boy, and he had a residual fear of doctors that he never quite got over. Part of me thinks that he decided that he wanted to leave on a high note, at home, surrounded by family, rather than being poked and prodded in a healthcare institution. After sitting up watching one of his favorite movies, he went to sleep, and didn't wake up.
Two years ago, I posted a short eulogy I had written for the post-funeral gathering. My cousin Andrew read it for me, because I flew out to Switzerland a few days after my uncle's death to visit a newly-born nephew. The funeral had been delayed so my aunt could attend post-surgery, and my uncles could travel to their ancestral Bronx homeland. To tell you the truth, besides not being fiscally able to cancel the trip on such short notice, I needed to get the hell out of Dodge, so to speak. My uncle had been through a lot in his last months, and I spent a good portion of the day of his death recounting the medical history of his last two-to-three years. Needless to say, it was an emotionally draining day.
Today, I drove in a downpour to Nassau County, on Long Island, and had lunch with my cousin Andrew. Among other things, we reminisced about Uncle Jim, who my cousin likened to "our Paul Bunyan" because of his sheer physical strength (he could lay cinderblocks like mere mortals lay bricks). It's good to have a legendary figure to look up to in your childhood.
It's been a melancholy day, it even looks like a melancholy day, weather-wise.