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You Couldn’t Keep Him There

“And it was never question
He was crowing for repair
You’d give him love and affection
But you couldn’t keep him there”

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

When my mom called to tell me that my uncle had passed, I knew exactly why she was calling.

She simply said, “It’s over.” And oh, those words stick with me. A world was over. A universe and galaxy with sunsets and moonrises, all of the letters and words on pages and Scrabble games. I knew the end was coming, but I also didn’t, preferring to live in some sort of dark and hidden denial. Disguised with light and happiness and youth. Eventually the sun was going to set, the moon was going to rise, and its pale light would reveal the cracks and holes and deep pockets of grief. I started that one long ago, and I guess I never really stopped. Our dog/cat/house sitter was over at the time, respectfully kind and also humble, aware of my stunned silence or the tears streaming down my face. Either way. It was over. We have these phones now that tell us everything in real time, no matter where we are, or when we are. I was dreaming at the time.

Staring across the space, nearly into the abyss. It was the top of the downward spiral.

We spoke to him not long before he passed. He had an amazing social worker, Grayson, who facilitated FaceTime calls when Jamie was too weak to do it himself. We set a date for the call around late morning, but Jamie was too weak and the call was canceled. Then he perked up after a nap, and Grayson tried to reach me. I don’t know where I was but my mom also tried to call and text me. “TAMARA!” She wrote me. All caps mean business. Grayson and my mom both knew what I wasn’t admitting yet; this was probably our last FaceTime call. Everyone was either asleep or at school but I took the call. I wanted Jamie to see Rider’s beautiful sleeping face, so I took the phone into the nursery. Of course, this woke Rider up, and he reacted as all toddlers do when they wake up too fast and furious, or too early, or too late. His whole face brightened when he saw Jamie on the call, though. I held him, his big eyes looking curiously at the video screen.

We walked through the house together.

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

Sawyer was sleeping in the downstairs bassinet, and I showed him Sawyer’s sleeping face as well. Only, Sawyer woke up and looked at the phone with a clear-eyed and sunny expression. It’s like he knew. I sank back heavily into the couch, worried that my uncle would fall asleep mid-conversation, or even worse. At one point I thought it was the end right then. My mom and sister had warned me that it wasn’t the Uncle Jamie I remembered, but I wasn’t prepared for how far gone he was. It made me livid that illness could take away someone’s color and life so forcefully and cruelly. What is even the point? It may have been a half day or maybe Des had an after school class or playdate, but I was home alone with the babies. I usually meet the kids at the bus stop but they’re more than old enough to walk up the driveway themselves if I’m not there. So Scarlet let herself in after a few minutes, saw who I was talking to, and wordlessly sat next to me. She said hello to Jamie and put her head on my shoulder. So the frame was filled with the three of us, and you could see all of the world’s love in our eyes. It was as clear as day.

And that is technology at its finest.

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

My Uncle Jamie had many, many dear friends in Cleveland. Thoughtful, insightful, intelligent, warm, caring, loving people. It’s not surprising because that’s who he was. As we said during his NJ celebration of life ceremony, he was never one for grudges and games. He was all about the finer things in life – travel, books, good food, love. He always showed up for everyone. He never forgot a birthday or celebration. He once brought me a sundress, which is one of my favorite things ever. He saw it and thought it seemed like it would suit me (it does) and when I thanked him, he said, “Well, you’re my only Tammy.” So it’s no surprise that so many of his loved ones showed up to his celebration of life ceremony in Cleveland. I was planning to go, with at least half or all of my family, but that was the week we all (except for Scarlet) contracted COVID. I saw the pictures. The beautiful day, the speeches, the people wiping away tears. And how do you go through big loss? You just do; you do it together. The technology was there for what we missed.

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

When my mom wanted to plan a celebration of life gathering for people in the Northeast, there was no question. We were going. I saw it looming on the calendar as some sort of big closure agreement. Maybe then, I could face this loss. Maybe then, I could give myself a safe space to grieve, or at least start the process. I wasn’t prepared for it, but how can you be? We showed up.

And really, everyone there did. In so many ways.

Because of technology, a dear friend could take our updated family photo (22 of us – WOW) and have it sent to our phones and computers within a few hours. So we ate, less than I thought I would. And we spoke, more than I thought I would. And we cried, and just about as much as I thought I would. The wisest words were said, and although we won’t remember them verbatim, our hearts and souls will remember them. Our kids will remember them, and even some of the youngest absorbed the gravity of the event, and the deep love we hold so dearly to and through.

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

When I was Scarlet’s age, I wrote my own version of the poem “A Dream Deferred.” It was for an assignment but I took it in directions that no other classmates did, preferring to use poetic words to describe the detailed outcomes of dreams you don’t fulfill. It seemed less scary then, and now it’s downright terrifying. I think, also, of what happens to a love deferred. Maybe it’s always been there but it’s hard to embrace it at once, or even know where to start. And maybe you think it will always be there, because you think your loved ones will always be there. It’s so much, too much, everything all at once. Surely it won’t evaporate or pop or shrink. It still grows.

Surely, it must go somewhere. Surely, it must go everywhere.

And it was never question, He was crowing for repair, You'd give him love and affection, But you couldn't keep him there

“Wouldn’t you know it
No answer ever did come

And it was never question
You were crowing for repair
You’d give him love and affection
But you couldn’t keep him there”

I’m linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday (FTSF) for a new prompt. FTSF is back and better than ever! And this week’s timely topic is “I love technology..” Link up your own post HERE.

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6 Comments

  1. Aw, Tamara honestly just so glad you got to be there in the end and got some closure at the very least. Although, I know you will always hold your Uncle near and dear to your heart. Sending much love to you always, my friend ❤️

  2. Lovely thoughts, beautiful words. Your Mom spoke to me about her wonderful brother. I know she and the rest of the family will miss him.

  3. I hope that time will help to heal all the hurt Tamara. Hopefully writing about your very special memories and lovingly sharing them with us will help the healing process too. These pictures are so beautiful, and the family picture is a jewel!!

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