The Last Uncle

I just received word this evening that my father’s only remaining sibling died tonight.

There were five of them originally, my dad was the oldest. Their parents were immigrants but the children were born in America. If you could go back in time and predict which sibling would outlive the others, you likely wouldn’t have picked the winner correctly. A Korean War veteran, he had tough times. By all accounts, he came back changed permanently. Of course we had no wide understanding of PTSD then.

He drifted – in and out of jobs, in and out of our lives, even in and out of jail. I know there were times that all his brothers and sisters wanted to do was smack him, but for better or for worse, they were always there to pick him up and brush him off.

Up to the end he was doing what he did best – keeping his family on their toes and surprising us with his resilience. He smoked, he drank, he lived on cookies and a stubborn determination to prove people wrong. Despite knowing better, there were moments that I thought he might go on defying the odds forever.

One of a kind, for sure. An American original. RIP, Uncle Fran.

Knowing his time was drawing short, this beautiful Linda Pastan poem has been rattling around my brain. When I first heard it a decade ago, it was like a sucker-punch because I knew that sooner or later I’d need it.

The Last Uncle
-Linda Pastan

The last uncle is pushing off
in his funeral skiff (the usual
black limo) having locked
the doors behind him
on a whole generation.

And look, we are the elders now
with our torn scraps
of history, alone
on the mapless shore
of this raw, new century.

4 thoughts on “The Last Uncle”

  1. Oh, that poem says it all. We are the grownups now, and it’s sad and weird and painful in many ways. I am sorry you’ve lost your last uncle, end of an era for sure. <3

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