Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Uncle Teddy

I found out Saturday afternoon that my Uncle Teddy had passed away. I'd called my mom to check in and see what she was up to, when she told me. My mom has 3 brothers: Jimmy, Teddy and Gary. Gary, the youngest, passed away several years ago. He was alone in his apartment at the time and it was a few days before he was discovered. Teddy was the second youngest and again was alone in his home where he was found a day later. Today would have been his 70th birthday, but instead of a party there will be a funeral. My mother's oldest brother, Jimmy's birthday is on Wednesday. She said he and Teddy had a running gag about how for one day Jimmy Was younger than Teddy. Being an only child, I can't begin to imagine how sad it will be for him to lose one of his best friends as well as a brother.

Growing up, my parents and I always used to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas at my grandmother's house. It was the few times of year that all the family got together. Gary had two children from a previous marriage, Teddy and his wife Clarabeth had 3 children that were roughly 10-15 years older than me and Jimmy and his wife Shirley had 2 sons around the same age. Teddy's wife and kids were always my favorite when it came to relatives. Clarabeth was a school teacher and had the same wicked sense of humor that Teddy and all their kids possessed. Johnny was the oldest, Renee the youngest and David was the middle child. I loved each of them for different reasons: Renee was what my mother would call "full of beans." I loved being around her because she was the funniest person I'd ever met and could always leave me laughing 'til I cried. David was always sweet and outgoing and Johnny, I must admit was my favorite. I think it's because he talked to me when no one else would and always seemed to be genuinely interested in what I had to say. A very big deal when you're just a "kid." He made me feel necessary and didn't talk down to me, like most adults tend to do when it comes to communicating with children.

I've been rummaging through boxes all weekend trying to find a picture that I know is around here somewhere. It's of my mother and her brothers when they were little kids back in the early 40's. They're some really great pictures that, had I been more organized, I could have located and scanned to include with today's entry.

However, as I was looking through some of my old scrapbooks, I ran across a picture of my Uncle Teddy from what must be the early 80's. I started laughing immediately, then started crying. Emotions can be a fickle thing. I laughed because even though I love the vintage photos of him and his siblings, this picture conveyed more of the spirit in which I remember him: acting crazy and making me laugh. He was good at that. I remember when I asked to take his picture he struck this pose, showing off his, as he called them, "gams." He was really good natured about poking fun of himself (and others).

I remember a "trick" that Uncle Teddy used to show me that I could never figure out when I was little. Unbeknownst to me, Uncle Teddy apparently had a set of false lower teeth. And he delighted in showing me how he could "knock his teeth out" by smacking the back of his head (a couple of times, in order to give the effect that they were being knocked "loose"). I remember it used to crack me up and I would laugh like someone had just told the funniest joke I'd ever heard. Naturally, I'D try to do it and it would never work. Apparently this was an endless source of humor for my family at the time. At best, I'd smack the back of my head a few times and jut out my bottom teeth like some bulldog with an under bite. The stupid things we do as kids.

And last but not least, when I was little it was kind of a running gag among my parents and Uncle Teddy about how much I hated coconut. Well, one Christmas while at my grandmother's, among the presents under the tree was one from Uncle Teddy. It was round, wrapped in Christmas paper and had a bow on it. Naturally, I couldn't wait to open it. I'm sure you can guess what it was. But me, being a gullible little kid had no idea. Until I opened it. In the corner of my mind I can remember Teddy smoking, nudging my mom to look, and all the while grinning like a Cheshire cat, from behind tinted glasses as I opened it. It was a coconut. I'm sure my face fell when I saw it and this was enough fuel to make Teddy snicker and laugh like Muttley from the Laff Olympics.

Over the years my mother's brothers stopped coming to Grandma's house for the holidays. Their kids were getting older, getting married and having children of their own. Their priorities shifted to their own families and after my grandmother was killed (car accident) in the late 80's, the tradition of seeing family sort of died with it. My mom still kept in touch via mail and phone calls, but things were never really the same again. Needless to say I drifted away from my uncles and cousins and we're all pretty much strangers at this point in our lives. We all live so far apart and have such different priorities now that we probably wouldn't find much in common to talk about, reduced to that small talk reserved for people we feel obligated to talk to.

Since I have never been one for family interaction, be it reunions, weddings or even funerals, I'll not be attending the funeral service with my parents today. It's hard to explain but I associate them all as the same thing: reminders of what was. After all, it's been nearly 20 years since I've seen any of them and at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I'm not the same person that they probably remember anyway. It's like when the people back home who knew me as a child ask my parents about me. I'm always remembered as "sweet" or "talented," and I don't feel like I'm that person they knew anymore. Maybe it's just me. All I'm trying to say is that even though I may not be there in person today, doesn't mean I won't be thinking of them all: Johnny, David, Renee and my mother. And of course, Uncle Teddy. I'll miss him.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most times you make me laugh,today you make me cry. I really like to read your blog,sorry about Teddy, that picture is priceless.
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye". (The Little Prince)
I would not have gone to the funeral either and prefer cherishing the memories.
Your fan in Cinti.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Cheeky Prof said...

So sorry to hear about your Uncle Teddy. He's livin' it up someplace better now. Take care of yourself.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Mariana said...

My condolences, Kirk, so sorry to hear about your loss.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 2:25:00 PM  
Blogger Terri said...

I think your tribute to Uncle Teddy means much more than standing over a coffin saying "Doesn't he look natural?" Lovely memorial. Godspeed Teddy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 3:26:00 PM  
Blogger Kirkkitsch said...

Anonymous, Cheeky, Gatochy & Terri-

Thank you very much for the kind words. They are all much appreciated. :)


Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:26:00 PM  

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