Saturday, January 28th, 2017 – 3:36 am
One of my brothers lost his father recently.
I say brother. He is my cousin, but sometimes you get so close to someone, you cannot say a more accurate word than brother.
When you know you are just as close to someone as your own brother or sister.
I spoke almost an hour with my cousin Adam the day before yesterday, as his father, my uncle Jerry, had died in his sleep the night before.
We both were still a little stunned and unsure how to converse when the phone call began.
Adam and I have a shared backstory that many do not know about. It is hard for me to even type this without getting choked up, thinking about experiences with extreme trauma and violence that drive both of us to channel that into something good, trying to be devoted family men and extremely protective of women.
I know, because I look up to him. I promised him to do all I can to be there for him and his two beautiful sisters, my cousins Bethany and Siobhan.
As my father began to lose more of his ability to walk and talk six years ago, their dad, my uncle Jerry, drove his big brother all the way upstate New York to help him to the top of the Olympic ski jump in Lake Placid, just miles from the Shene homestead and the place of my birth.
Just a few years afterward my father’s condition deteriorated much further and after the 2014 Shene reunion, I urgently called my cousin Bethany, who had extensive experience with her nursing business over elder care and end of life care.
She and Adam both, not unlike their dad helping mine to the top of the ski jump, rushed in to my parent’s house to selflessly help their uncle Paul and aunt Paula. They spent their own time and money to help make it more handicap accessible for my dad, as his condition rapidly progressed.
All of Jerry’s kids have the same exact kind of shirt-off-your-back compassion and fierce loyalty to family that their father strived for himself. They always have. And they made him proud by excelling even him at it, now in the middle of loving and raising beautiful and compassionate children of their own.
Since my condition has disabled me over the last year, Adam and I have talked a number of times about the dangers of PTSD from extreme violence. We’ve talked each other down from several angry ledges. And we’ve confided things only the closest of brothers could ever do.
We both had sometimes violent fathers who were at times either not there or present in only the most destructive and worst of ways. And he and I also were the the first to later extend an olive branch to those same fathers to try to create a new friendship, after reaching adulthood.
My uncle Jerry was a loving and loyal friend, son, brother, father and grandfather. He went before any of us were ready to say goodbye. But he did it right. He was not perfect, but he was an example I was proud to be around. He laughed. He loved. He loved his wife Laura and she loved him just as deeply. Everywhere he went, Jerry asked how you were doing and he meant it. He really cared to know. He always tried to make you smile or laugh. And uncle Jerry usually succeeded.
In reminiscing about our dark pasts, Adam and I did not pretend the damage never happened. We just refuse to take our eyes off the future and our families we choose to shape and protect from harm and severe abuse. Something we didn’t have. We strived against the worst odds possible to make our fathers proud and we hope we succeeded.
But far more importantly, we hope to someday make proud our sons and daughters.