I don’t know what posessed me to put that video up early this morning of the Gaither Vocal Band singing Jesus Loves Me. Maybe it was to prepare me for a phone conversation I had to have this evening.
My mom calls me, sounded a little frantic “Mary [her sister in law] called and left a message. Said it’s bad news. I’m ‘fraid my brother’s gone.”
Her brother is 86 years old and has been blessed with pretty good health considering his age and the one-after-the-other tragedies he and his wife have experienced since 1994:
1-Only daughter dies unexpectedly of pneumonia after surgery. I think she was 40-41 years old.
2-Oldest son gets lung cancer. Goes through treatment. Things look good. Then, about a year later, I think it was on a Wednesday, they discovered it was in his liver. He had worked that day. Was dead by that Saturday. I think he was 52 or 53.
3-3 years later, their other son commits suicide.
4-2 years later, daughter in law, wife of oldest son dies of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
5-Last year, daughter in law, wife of son that died in 2003 dies of cancer. Two late teen/early 20ish sons.
My mother only has a cell phone for long distance. She doesn’t keep the thing charged or on. She doesn’t even have a long distance carrier on her regular phone anymore. So, she calls me and asks me to call Mary. I am dreading this. I’m thinking that if my Uncle Nootsie (nickname) has passed, I am going to have to talk to his wife of 60+ years and it’s gonna be painful. Then, I’m thinking “Oh geez, I am going to have to call Mom and tell her that she is now the sole surviving Sullivan Kid.”
I’m dreading this call, but, at the same time, I’m thinking “Damn…Nootsie’s 86 years old. If he’s gone, then he didn’t suffer. It was probably his heart. He probably mowed his grass recently. A life well lived.”
Something told me though, as I dialed the phone and got the busy signal that it probably wasn’t Nootsie. This was confirmed when my Uncle answered the phone (and sounded eeerily like my mother when she first wakes up and hasn’t had coffee yet) and proceeded to tell me that Steven, his oldest grandchild, was killed in a car wreck today.
You want to hear something absolutely GUT wrenching, listen to an 86 year old man, who has been walking around with a piece of shrapnel in his head since WWII and has a Purple Heart, break down and cry uncontrollably on the phone and then pass the phone to his wife because he can’t say anymore.
Then, I talk to my Aunt Mary, who is crying and I’m thinking “Holy crap…what do you say to this???” I’m not believing what I’m hearing. It’s bad enough to outlive ONE of your children, much less THREE, plus two daughters in law that have been in your family for so long, it’s almost like you gave birth to them, and now their oldest grandchildm the same kid that was born the same week my grandfather died in 1971 and carried his middle name. What the hell????
How is it that Steven took his wife some lunch today at home because she was sick and now he’s dead? Left no skidmarks. Died on impact. And his younger brother and sister now are the only two left in that family? This young guy, who isn’t even 30 yet, helped care for his mother as she suffered that horrendous disease has to call his grandparents, as they’re sitting down for dinner to tell them that once again…….
That same Steven that we used to call “Stevie” who was probably one THE absolute most adorable little boys I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen Steven since he was about 15. I’ve seen pictures but my picture of him is this kid right here with my sister in about…oh 1977 or 78-
Little Stevie…I think of him as about 3 or 4…with his pajamas with the rhinoceros on it and we’d ask him repeatedly….”Stevie…whats that on your pajamas?” We wanted to hear him say…again….”Ith a bunotheroth.”
So, there I am on the phone with my aunt….listening to her cry, talking about what a good husband Steven was and how crazy he and his wife were about each other…She asks how I am. I can’t quite describe how it humbled me when she asked, yet, I was a little hesitant because sheesh…I have NOTHING to complain about. Humbling because she stopped crying for a minute to ask about each kid by name, etc.
Then, I have to call my mother. She answers the phone and I can tell she’s been crying.
“Well…it’s not Nootsie.”
“Who is it?” she asked me.
I tell her and she hollers “No! HOW MUCH MORE CAN THEY TAKE? THIS CAN’T BE! etc. etc ”
I haven’t heard my mother let loose like that since…gosh….I was probably a little kid. Mom tends to hold her emotions in. Oddly enough, I was glad to hear her do that.
But, it absolutely sucks. It would have been easier to tell her it was her brother, I think.