My uncle Richard was laid to rest on Friday. Given his military service, he chose a military funeral. It was brief. Taps was played, the flag was folded and presented to my aunt Suzanne, we drove away.
It’s funny how families turn out. Who knew that my grandparents were the glue holding us all together? We were broken in ways families break when some are alcoholics, but love was abundant. We used to have wonderful family times together, usually at their home on a small lake in southwest Michigan. But after my grandparents died, both in 1987, we all went our separate ways.
I see Uncle Jack every couple years. I was always partial to him; he used to take me fishing as a teenager where he spoke to me as an adult. It devoted me to him. I hadn’t seen Uncle Richard in probably 20 years. He and Suzanne used to come to Indianapolis about once a year for a military memorabilia show. He was a collector and he always rented a booth. I’d go visit. But they stopped, and that was that.
I hadn’t seen Richard and Suzanne’s two children, my cousins, since my grandmother’s funeral. Edward and I spoke briefly but he was busy with his active young son. Patricia hugged me harder than I think I’ve ever been hugged.
Nor had I seen my uncle Dennis since that funeral. His bad behavior that day estranged several of us from him, and frankly I had no desire ever to see him again.
So imagine my surprise when I ended up driving Dennis, Jack, and my mom — the three surviving siblings — from the cemetery to the restaurant where we’d all chosen to gather. Imagine my delight when the three of them sang songs together that they remembered from when days were better. I sang right along when they got to this old novelty tune:
It was a magic moment. It reconnected me to those good days, and healed old wounds.
Still, I expect nothing will change. I’ll see Jack every year or two as always, but everybody else only at the funerals that, given our ages, are bound to come frequently now.
We can’t go back and live the last 32 years differently. We all were who we were, and we all went through what we went through, and it etched the paths of our lives as if predestined.