My uncle Ira passed away last night. He was 78 years old. My aunt Shirley, his wife, passed in December of 2015. They were two of my favorite people growing up. Ira was my dad’s brother. Growing up, our families were always together because we were always camping or getting together for a holiday. Some of my favorite memories are of New Year’s Eve when we would gather at their house. The adults and older cousins would stay in the kitchen, playing poker and drinking and celebrating. I would be in the other room watching Dick Clark. I am 6 – 12 years younger than my older siblings and cousins, and while at ages 43 and 49 the gap doesn’t seem like much, at 7 and 13 it might as well have been 20 years. The distance between some of us, though, has carried over into adulthood. I’m not that close to as many of my siblings and cousins as I would like to be. It may be why the TV show Smallville always resonated with me; at times I feel like an alien in my own family.
I’m awaiting news of funeral arrangements so I can head down to Missouri. There is a snow storm on the way, so there’s a possible wrinkle, but I want to go to be there for my cousins and my dad. My dad is the youngest, and by the time the week is up he will have buried his parents, his older sister, and his two older brothers. He’s the last one. It’s this, perhaps, that weighs on my heart more than anything. It’s the natural order of things, to bury your parents. As the youngest child, it’s even the natural order of things to bury your older siblings. But as the youngest child, the thought of it scares the hell out of me. I can’t imagine anything that happens in the next 30 years making it okay. I guess it’s never “okay” to lose someone you love, but I don’t know how you make it through that kind of loss again, again, and again.
Maybe that’s the tradeoff of being the youngest. Spoiled and sometimes favored as a child, it becomes your place to watch those you love die, one by one, until you’re the only one left. I think I’d rather be the forgotten middle child, or the put-open oldest child. But the perks of being the youngest are short lived and do not compare to the grief you eventually experience.
RIP, Uncle Ira, pictured below in the tan suit.