The second case of cancer in the family strikes a few years after the first round we experienced. And again, this time, there won't be a recovery. All we can do is wait, cry, visit and say goodbye. I hate these goodbyes, but the older I get I find there are more of them in one way or another.
This time it's a guy that my boys spent hours and hours with. I think they see him as a grandpa, and I can see that. Their grandpas were both gone when the boys were not very old, and the opportunity they had to hang out with my uncle was to them priceless. Both of the boys have a sign from his business and I think they treasure it more than most anything else in all of their possessions.
This guy was responsible for introducing my parents, and another aunt and uncle, who knows how many more of the time. So without the intro, I probably wouldn't have been able to bless you with my presence.
He's one of the last in my family that had jobs in manufacturing, so he knew what it meant to put in a long day of hard work. Then he "retired" and probably worked harder than anyone else.
I always think that these losses won't hit me too hard, and then I see a headline that I failed to finish because I couldn't decide which words to use as my descriptive word. Should I use, "died," "was killed," "killed" etc. It was at that point that it hit me. I closed the story and had a cry. Then forgot to go back and fix the headline.
Now my uncle is a relatively quiet kind of guy. Not because he necessarily was, but well, he married my aunt who was a louder type with a hearty laugh. Often you would have seen him in the background laughing along.
I think when I will remember him I will be remembering him for his kindness to my boys. I'll remember their excitement for another opportunity to run out and hop in his pickup and getting to spend the day with him. Of course, it might be the gallons of Mountain Dew that he bought for them that mom didn't buy for them...as if they needed it!
I'll remember him as the guy that stepped in and filled the void of the missing grandpas in my boys' life. The guy that showed them how a hard day's work was good for you, even if the pay wasn't great.
My dad always took the boys for walks when they were able to walk and just old enough to drive my mom crazy. He'd grab their little hands and head outside to pick raspberries or walk around the neighborhood looking for pop cans or just straightening up the yard. Their other grandpas kept them busy gardening and their great-grandpa let them drive his tractor while he guided a single row plow behind them.
But this great uncle of theirs put them to work, spent the time with them that was taken away too soon by losing their other grandpas. This is who they will remember most. This is the one that they will hurt the most I'm sure.
And well, I always enjoyed being with my uncle but spent more hours talking to my aunt or my cousin. But he was one of the first to make sure that I was doing alright a few years ago and did what most men in that generation do, said little, but with his actions, I knew he was speaking volumes.
The last of the "Iowa Man" (manufacturing) guys in my world will be leaving us. It was something that many of us in Vinton probably had one of. I still remember waiting for the carpool which included my uncle at the end of the driveway. At 4:30 sharp, they'd drop my daddy off at the bottom of what felt like a "big" hill, but it really wasn't. We'd sit on the rock retaining wall and wait for him. There were 5 or 6 guys in the car, and they'd always wave as they pulled off. It always seemed like a fun bunch to hang out with. Of course, if my daddy was in the car, I was sure of it.
He and my uncle spent years at the same factory. They went through Union strikes together. And put their time in, until my dad decided the factor life wasn't for him, over the road trucking was more his style.
But after that, the two would often be found reminiscing about their days as teenagers. Running the country roads between Cedar Rapids and Troy Mills, until they met some girls in Vinton. And this is where the old guys pause in their stories and grin. It wouldn't matter what the story was, or which topic it was about, as soon as they'd get to anything about their girls, they paused.
Maybe the reason that Vinton feels so much like home, is because of the fact that my great grandparents, that I didn't know, my grandparents, my parents, myself, and now my kids and grandkids have all lived here. I was fortunate to have my aunt and uncle here both at the beginning of my life and at the end of theirs. It's the people like my uncle that makeup Vinton.
There is something to be said about a town like that. For the people that invest their lives in a town like that. I hate the end of an era. I hate the thought of loss.
I know it's part of life, but let's be honest. It sucks.
There isn't anymore that can be said. But in the remaining time that we have left together, I'll try to be there, just to sit and listen, or to visit with my cousin, and we'll try to entertain the uncle with stories of the past like he and my dad always did. The roles have changed, but the love is the same.
So while from the front of this website, you'll hopefully see what's happening around town, behind the scenes, I'll be grieving as we continue to say our not long enough goodbyes.
Thanks, uncle, for the pats on the arm, the look of concern and the 'how are you doing?" And for all of the years of just being there for the kids and me. But most of all, thanks for introducing mom and dad, and for being one of those guys that can be looked up to and respected. Thanks for everything.