Their Bad Mother

Their Bad Mother

This Mortal Coil

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.


Comments read comments(9)
post a comment

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.

report abuse


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.

report abuse


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.

report abuse


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.

report abuse

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.

report abuse


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.

report abuse


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.

report abuse

Mandi Bone

posted February 15, 2010 at 10:23 am

I am soory for your loss.

report abuse

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.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Their Bad Mother. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Inspiration Report Life As A Concious Mom Happy Reading!!! ...

posted 4:50:01pm Jul. 05, 2012 | read full post »

The Road To Heaven Is Paved With Maracas
Last weekend, I went to Mass for the first time in well over a decade. To say that it was a strange and disorienting experience would be to understate things dramatically. But it was also a deeply comforting and familiar experience. I know that ...

posted 9:30:01am Mar. 09, 2011 | read full post »

Dear God (On The Catholic Church And Abuse And Evil And Crises Of Faith)
This weekend, I read an article in New York Times Magazine about the crisis surrounding the Catholic Church in Ireland as new, horrible, stories emerge about sexual abuse of children and efforts by the Church to cover up those stories. It was a ...

posted 1:34:44pm Feb. 16, 2011 | read full post »

Buy Yourself Roses For Valentine's Day
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your ...

posted 9:07:07am Feb. 10, 2011 | read full post »

There But For A Rocking Chair: On Love and Fear and Keeping Our Children Safe
Before Emilia was born, I fussed endlessly about babyproofing. Never mind that it would be months before she would even enter the world, let alone move around it and find its electrical outlets: I was convinced that when it came to babies, there ...

posted 6:46:18pm Dec. 16, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.