Their Bad Mother

Their Bad Mother


This Mortal Coil

posted by Catherine Connors

I’ve lost another member of my family.

My Uncle Jimmy was actually my great-uncle, although I would never have called him that, because of his youth. He was a late-in-life child of my great-grandmother’s – younger than both my mother and her brother, younger than everyone until the grandkids came along. So it was that he was always Uncle Jimmy to me and to everyone – never Jim or James – because he always the young one. He and his wife, my Aunt Kim, seemed perpetually youthful, perpetually hip and fun, in comparison to my parents and to the other adults in our family. Their son, my cousin, Shane, was diagnosed autistic way back before anyone really understood what autism was, and they brought him up in an environment of play, encouraging his social skills through laughter and fun, and it seemed to me that that was how learning should always be – fun – and at times I was jealous that Shane didn’t have to go to regular school, that he got to spend so much time with his parents, that his homework was charades and puppet shows and board games that he invented alongside his dad. They were fun. Jimmy was fun.

The last time I saw Uncle Jimmy was this past summer, at my grandfather’s funeral, a few weeks before my father died. He was ill – cancer – and the physical toll of his illness was striking: young Jimmy, youthful Jimmy, seemed many years older than I could ever have imagined him being. But he insisted that he was doing well, and that he had faith that God would keep him around for awhile – he had found comfort in God, in the Christian church, after his marriage to Kim foundered and failed, and he was comforted by God even in the pain of illness. And God did keep him around, I guess – longer than he did Dad, whose death was unexpected – until his time was up.

I’m not sure what that means, exactly – anyone’s time being up. I don’t know that I believe that we shuffle off this mortal coil according to a schedule, but then again, I don’t know that I believe that we don’t. I don’t know what I believe.

All I know is, my family is being thinned; I am losing too many, too fast, and although Jimmy’s death doesn’t slice through my soul the way my Dad’s does, it nonetheless hurts, because he was part of the landscape of my family, he was part of who we were, who we are, a ‘we’ that grows ever smaller, ever more diffuse.

I say this even as *my* family grows – I have, now, my children, and my husband’s family, and a new genealogy that stretches in different directions from that of the family that I defined by the horizons of my mother and my father and their genealogies. But that’s part of the pain, the discomfort – the family of my childhood recedes into the background, shrinking, becoming ever more distant, and I walk away, forward, toward a new familial horizon, one that my children will embrace and find comfort in and then, someday, walk away from themselves and all this movement, all this leaving behind, tugs at my soul, and it hurts.

Rest in peace, Uncle Jimmy.

 



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Jana

posted February 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm


I’m so sorry. I read your post about Lee McQueen’s death and ached some more for you. I wish our family trees could continue to grow without losing any limbs along the way.



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Amanda

posted February 13, 2010 at 11:01 am


I know. The thinning and regenerating, it hurts. The thinning was why I got off my butt and got married at 32. Now we’ve started the next generation, but I can’t seem to get a second child cooking, and our son has no cousins or prospect of any in the near future. Our families are so diffuse and spread out now.



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frelle

posted February 15, 2010 at 9:44 am


I am so sorry to hear that you have lost your uncle. Your words are achingly sad. You have given me pause to consider my own family as it has spread more in a forward direction. Thank you for the inspiration in the midst of your pain.



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Becca

posted February 15, 2010 at 9:49 am


I have remained silent, in the background or your world, but following your words. I have ached for your sorrow and wondered how you have been so able to keep up your unbelievable humor and strength in the face of such sorrow. You plug along, continue your cheer, make the rest of us smile as you feel sadness. Amazing really. I am so sorry you have lost another member of your family. I am sorry you have to deal yet again with sorrow. I hope somehow you can find some peace and know that at least this enormous cyberfamily you have cultivated continues to grow and support you.



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Howie Montgomery

posted February 15, 2010 at 9:57 am


My condolences.
Beautifully written. You have a lovely turn of phrase. I was moved. I am always amazed by the way words allow us to feel for people we have never met.



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patois

posted February 15, 2010 at 10:05 am


I think it’s at that time that we are transitioning that is the hardest in this march toward an eventual end. Losing my father when he was fairly young was my first blow and then each subsequent one piled on top. And now I am the middle, watching that frail older generation and that blooming younger one. I am sorry for your losses.



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amanda

posted February 15, 2010 at 10:18 am


For our threads and sweet loops of new life, even as we endure the unraveling of what we’ve known. Wishing you peace.



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Mandi Bone

posted February 15, 2010 at 10:23 am


I am soory for your loss.



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Janine Murray

posted February 15, 2010 at 11:30 am


I am so sorry for your loss Catherine … You sure have had a difficult year.
For those of us who haven’t had as much loss of late, your words remind us that it is inevitable, the cycle.
We are either just coming out of loss, in the middle of it, or about to experience it. Your writing is a good reminder for all of us to cherish those we have while we have them and to create new and beautiful memories with our new families, whatever shape they might take.
This comment comes with a prayer that you may find peace and strength to deal with your losses and encouragement and energy for your “now” family.



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