The patriarch of our family passed away two weeks ago. It was not much of a surprise but it was definitely a shock. The idea that such an incredible, vibrant spirit was no longer in my life and the lives of my family seemed unthinkable. Yet that dearest of men lived into his 90’s. He’s left a legacy we will always cherish and live better for.
Uncle Joe was one of those men loved by one and all. He set the standard for all of the men in our lives. We all loved him because he was that special something for each of us. He appreciated how unique we all were and that was definitely his gift. That and the gift of laughter. The man had sharp wit and a naughty sense of humor. His joie de vivre was infectious and we always laughed so much when we were with him. He lived some tragedies but he was filled with joy. Such a lesson for me. Live the life you have.
I remember the day of my own father’s funeral. I was 17 years old. Uncle Joe sat with us after the service and he was angry and he was sad and he was somewhat incredulous. He kept saying it wasn’t right, my dad was far too young. He promised he would always be there for us and he kept that promise for 43 years. He was a man of his word. He took us in emotionally and he continued to be a father figure to us all. He lived loyalty and faith and by doing so he showed us the way. It’s a truth that we teach our children the lessons we have learned from our own parents, for good or bad and sometimes without realization. I know his lessons were good. His love for his family was immeasurable. I was so proud that he considered me part of his tribe.
I have been a gypsy my whole adult life, traveling and living far from home and sometimes our visits were years apart. But each time I called him on the phone he would start our conversation with the cheery greeting “Tina! You’re lookin’ good!”. It was always the warmest welcome I could ask for from so far away. He was always interested in my life and what I was doing. I was miles away but he was still my father figure. When I married my husband before I had introduced him to my family, Uncle Joe asked how I could marry a man he hadn’t met yet. It seemed unthinkable. I was always at odds with my own daring. But then he met my husband and they became the fastest of friends. He realized that I had looked for a man so much like him and I was forgiven that transgression.
We are mourning but we are celebrating this good and great man. He was a patriot and a veteran and he loved the country he fought for. I was so gratified to hear he had a military send off. That’s right, I heard. Because again my geographical distance kept me from attending his funeral. I took the day of his funeral off work so I could think of him and celebrate him and I hope, honor him.
He was a husband, a brother, a dad. He was a grandfather and this year became a great grandfather and no one wore that title so well. He was a force to be reckoned with. He was a simple man. Thank you, thank you for all of your love, Uncle Joe. The rest of my life misses you.