Monday, October 29, 2012

Uncle Keith

Uncle Keith was actually my great uncle, brother to my maternal grandfather. He was always the cool uncle who would show up and want nothing more than to play board or card games with my brother and I all day while my parents did their thing. For years, those were my only impressions of him and I savor them.

As I got older though, I began to learn about other parts of Uncle Keith, mostly the darker sides to his life. He lost his wife only a couple years after they were married and sunk into depression which evidently came back off an on the rest of his life and even required electro-shock therapy (way back in the day) at one point though I never saw him that way. He was always happy and full of laughter when in my presence. He was the complete opposite of his brother, my grandfather, and that caused a lot of tension in the family. My grandfather is a very talented mechanical oriented guy who I think of as a Jack of all Trades. Keith on the other hand was the opposite. He was into plays and musicals most of his life and had not a lick of common sense for going about the world. I have written stories about this lack of common sense on this blog in the past and our family lore is full of many many more. He also was a hoarder according to those who had been to his house, a concept that I couldn't even imagine.

Soon after I was married, I volunteered to meet Keith who was on his 'last hurrah' tour of Iowa and show him around his old stomping grounds. I spent the day with him and learned a lot about his past that I didn't know, particularly his military experience in World War II. The picture at the head of the post is the one I now think of when I think of Keith in the military. He served on the U.S.S. Iowa for a time and was some sort of assistant to a general and was on a ship in the bay when the treaty ending the war was signed. But during the time we spent that day, I could also see signs of dementia starting to make itself known and he would become confused at times.

Shortly after that visit, my wife and I were heading towards Pennsylvania on a route that took up by his hometown in Indiana so we decided to drop by and visit Uncle Keith at his home. I blogged about the experience on here but in summary, I learned what a hoarder was. Since that time, they came out with a television show on the subject and I have yet to be able to watch even one full episode because seeing those people remind me of Keith and how he lived and it just brought horrible sadness.

Keith was getting pretty frail at that point and a few years later moved to a nursing home. Last Christmas time I sent my normal card and letter to him at an address that I didn't know since he had always lived at the same address my entire life. That was also the first Christmas in my life that I never got a card back from him or the two dollar bill he would always send on my birthday. Dementia had reared its ugly head and his moments of clarity were few and far between. I still have every single one of those two dollar bills.

Last Wednesday, my Uncle Keith passed on at age of 90. All the imperfections that I have come to know in adulthood made me happy that he would now be in a better place without them. He is at peace at last. However the old memories of those long afternoons spent playing games with my cool uncle have come back from the back recesses of my brain and I am saddened at his passing. Today I am out of state saying my goodbyes.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss. +

Woody said...

Sorry to hear of his passing Ed.

Ed said...

Thanks everyone. It was a good funeral and really a delight to be around so many friends of my Uncle that overlooked his flaws like I did and loved him for who he was.

sage said...

Such a neat photo and the sadness of the loss of memory and eventually death. He reminded me of my Uncle Dunk (who was also a great-uncle, my grandmother's sister, who served in the navy in WW2 and who I have blogged about in the past).