Saturday, April 09, 2005

I'm going to get my house in order and I'm going to do it now, lest strangers come in and do it for me.

We've spent all day cleaning out my uncle's house. It isn't easy. His house is very small but it was packed full.

I felt guilty, prying into all of his things. My cousin and I packed up his UNDERWEAR, for crying out loud. We emptied his closets and all of his drawers. His privacy was totally invaded.

There are hundreds of big awesome-looking books about the military, esp. Viet Nam. There are hundreds of LP's. Hundreds of cd's. Hundreds of cassette tapes. (Mostly country, some Billboard-type sixties music.) We don't know what to do with them. I will probably try Ebay.

There were two big locked trunks in one room, and we had a hard time getting them open, to see what was inside and whether it was something to be saved, etc. We finally found a key that opened one of them; the other lock, we had to smash.

One was full to the brim of his old military things. Not just medals, papers, etc, but also letters, pictures of him and his fellow soldiers, in the barracks, in Saigon, in Tokyo, in places not labeled. There were pictures of pretty girls 'back home' with messages scrawled on the back that really embarassed my mother and my aunt. (Oh right, you young ones thought such things were modern, didn't you! Guess again.) Apparently, my uncle was writing to several girls 'back home,' none of which knew about the others. Item: we did not open and read any of his letters; letters are private. We only read the backs of the photographs. Tons of photographs.

I wish I knew the names of the other soldiers in the pictures; I would make copies and send them to their families. I wonder how many of them came home.

The other trunk was full of his old high school things: yearbooks, athletic letters, more pictures, ticket stubs, napkins from Proms and dances, tassels, and other typical high school things that a guy who went to school in the sixties might collect. Report cards.

Two trunks full of personal, private things that meant enough to my uncle that he locked them into their own trunks and kept them forever.

In the two trunks, there must have been at least two dozen pictures of pretty girls, with VERY personal messages on the backs; some made mention of, um, things that would be done when he came back. Others were just expressions of love and longing.

My uncle went to Viet Nam a high school hero; one of the most popular boys in his class; a letterman; a ladies' man; a walking definition of cool. Fonzie would have begged to hang out with him.

He returned from Viet Nam a drunk. He didn't marry any of the pretty girls whose pictures promised eternal love to him. He never married at all until he was nearly fifty, and that awful woman was a terrible mistake on his part. He was lonely.

Once the drinking was under control (if it ever really is for men who were in 'Nam) he straightened right up and became my mother's travel buddy, her repairman, her company in the evenings to watch tv with. He was, after all, her baby brother. They went on trips. He drove her car, and kept it in good repair. He took good care of her, and she took good care of him. They had a lot of fun.

Before he went to Viet Nam, he was a Golden Boy and could have had his pick of jobs in this town. After he came back, nobody would hire him for he was incapable of holding down a job. The contrast was terrible. I was just a child but I could see it.

For the past ten or so years, he was happy, helping Mom and feeling useful. He connected with the rest of the family again, and all of us were always happy to see him. He always brought the ice and the pop on Thanksgiving. He always gave us McDonald's coupons for Christmas. He was a tradition.

And now people are cleaning out his house, and looking at all of his things, and talking about them, and about him, and approving and disapproving as each 'find' is announced.

I hope he knew how much we all cared about him. I hope he knew how welcome he always was, at our homes. I hope he knew how grateful we all were to him, for all the things he did for us.

I really hope he knows. The thing is, you see, I don't think anybody ever actually TOLD him how special and important he was. He was big, and quiet, and a little scary-looking, and it wasn't easy to warm up to him. He loved to help people out, fix things, find things, go on trips with Mom. My brother's sons are still young and they are crazy about him. When Zappa was younger, so was he. Children don't judge; they accept and love.

We all loved him; but we weren't as accepting as the children were.

I hope he knows we are sorry. I hope he knows we all loved him very much.

We're cleaning out his house. It's been sold. We cleaned out his car and truck. They've been sold. His big riding mower has been sold. Most of his clothing was given to Goodwill. His treasures have been divided and scattered all over the state. We'll finish cleaning out the house by the end of next week. There's not much left in it.

Hub and a few of my other uncles were joking as they loaded tools into boxes. Hub said that if Larry regains consciousness, he's really going to be pissed at what we've done to his house and his cars. Everyone laughed.

That's the thing, you see. He's not dead. Not yet. He's in a semi-responsive state. He's been that way ever since the stroke, a month or so ago. He was moved from the Veteran's Hospital to a Veteran's Rehab Center just yesterday.

Feeding tube: check. Blood-clot stockings: check. Little tubes emerging from all over his head: check. Other tubes emerging from under his hospital gown so I don't really know their point of exit: check.

Eyes open: not really; they flicker sometimes. Voluntary movement: we're not sure. Machines and tubes and dials: check. Definite responses: eh.

Scary decisions to be made in the near future: check.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:58 PM | |


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