Sunday, May 22, 2011

World, Shut Your Mouth

Atlas tomatoOkay, I’m pissed.

My Uncle Burt died today. It wasn’t unexpected; he’d been in poor health for some time now, and we all knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later. I think he was 92, or thereabouts. He was my Dad’s last surviving brother. Only Aunt Gertrude is left now, and she is in a nursing home in Fort Wayne. I wonder who will be calling Aunt Gert? Maybe my Mom, maybe they’ll let her sons know and they will tell her in person. I don’t know. I know it will make her cry. She’s the only one left.

Uncle Burt was in the Navy during WWII, and served on a ship in the Pacific. He came back and opened a body shop, which his son (Cousin Doug) runs now. They still do a great business, and are well known in the community. Uncle Burt and Aunt Margaret had a cabin in Minnesota (north of Bemidji), and I spent many happy weeks up there in the summer with my family when I was a kid. That’s where I learned to fish, and I got to see bears in the wild, a guy who made birch bark canoes and farmed wild rice, and I got to watch Uncle Burt and my Dad clean fish. Uncle Burt often made pancakes on an electric griddle, and I remember a mounted deer head in the attic that I just loved. There is a picture of a little me somewhere in my nightgown, with my arm wrapped around the deer like it was my best buddy.

Our summer vacations in Minnesota were like a week at camp. I learned to bait my own hook, I caught fish, and I got leeches on my feet, which I removed myself. I would catch leeches at the dock and pour salt on them and watch the bastards die. (I probably wouldn’t do that now, but it seemed like it was okay after I was dangling my feet in the water off of the pier and a leech glommed onto me.) When I caught a fish, everyone cheered, and when I said excitedly, “I’ve got a bite! I’ve got a bite!” and it turned out to be a weed, everyone thought it was cute and funny. They had a sign up at the entrance to their cabin and it said “Burton and Margaret’s Cabin,” or something like that. I was little and couldn’t read very well, so I called them Button and Maggie for a long time. They thought that was cute, too.

One time, my sister Sue and I rode up with Uncle Burt and Aunt Margaret while our Mom and Dad took their own trip by way of Niagara Falls to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I sat in the front seat between them, and when we drove through Duluth by Lake Superior, Uncle Burt would say, “Look at the ships!” and when I turned to look, he’d kiss me on the cheek. Aunt Margaret would do the same thing. I pretended to be all upset and would brush their kisses off of my cheeks, but I loved it. And I loved them.

Grief eyeThey were a big part of my childhood, and I cherish all of those memories. I’m having my cry at the moment, and I’m okay with that. I’ll be proud to attend Uncle Burt’s funeral this week and be with my family.

But I am also giving life a rather steely-eyed glare at the moment. Many things have been thrown at me in the past year and a half. I’m not going to rail against some unseen entity or ask “Why me??” As Christopher Hitchens said, “Why NOT me?” No one is causing this, no one is to blame. Death is a part of life, and I am of the age when my elderly relatives are going to die. That is reality, and I understand and accept that.

I spent some time this afternoon sitting outside on what was a beautiful day. About 80°, sunshine, everything is getting green and lush, birds were visiting the feeders. I planted some tomatoes. I’m feeling a bit of “Fuck you, life” right now, but I don’t really mean that. There is a big thunderstorm passing over right now, but I know that the sun will come out again. Literally and figuratively. I look at times like this and I’m all like “Bring it on, bitch.” I get frustrated at those with a defeatist attitude, because this sort of thing only brings out the fighter in me. And those of you who have been reading me for a while know that I’m nothing if not a fighter. I may be small, but I’m scrappy. [wink]

Sometimes things can seem overwhelming, but as I told myself today, “Nutwood abides.” Not just here, but everywhere. I’m sure that someone is fishing on Dora Lake near Bemidji...the lake where I fished with my Dad and Uncle Burt and my cousins. If not now, perhaps they will be tomorrow. I hope they catch a fish for my Uncle Burt.

Julian Cope - World Shut Your Mouth by UniversalMusicGroup


  1. I'm a firm believer in the adage "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But I remember a few times when it was damn hard to keep that perspective. We had so many people die in my family from 2001 to 2003 that to this day I refer to it as "The Avalanche of Death." It sucked then, it still sucks now, but we made it through somehow.

    Just as you will, of course. Keep your head up.

  2. I'm pretty sure in heaven, every time you cast your line, you catch a fish. Perhaps your dad and Uncle Burt will meet my dad and brother Arthur at the pier, and they will become best fishing buddies!! They'd have lots to talk about, I'm sure!

  3. I really don't know what to say, Beth. What I hope I am communicating is that you are in my thoughts and Ken is as well.

    p.s.- I have changed my mind about C. Hitch, no small part to your influence!!

  4. I"m so sorry for your loss, Beth! It doesn't get any easier, does it? I hate seeing that generation passing away. It's harder on me than I ever thought, and I know it has to be especially hard on you right now because of all you've been through lately. Hang in there!

  5. I am really sorry to read about your Uncle.

  6. Beth, sorry to hear this news. This has been a tough year for you and Ken. I'm glad to see you're both staying strong through it all. Sheri and I will have you both in our prayers.

  7. So, sorry to hear about your loss, but I do like to believe that Bert and your Dad are back together, swapping stories about the one that got away.
    You and your family are in our thoughts.

  8. Life is impossible under the best conditions. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  9. Lovely memories..thanks for sharing..a loss is always hard.....

  10. Sorry for the loss Beth. I will pray for peace for you.

  11. Hey Beth,

    I am so sorry to hear of your Uncle Burt's passing. So many awesome memories, and there must be so many more. Thank you for sharing them. I could easily picture it all . . . great times. It's easy to say, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened", but I have found it difficult to live by as you have no doubt. But I am happy for you that those precious times did happen, and you will have them to savor the rest of your life.

    You and your family are in my prayers, and if there's something I can do, let me know.

  12. Beth,
    I'm so sorry to hear of your Uncle Burt passing! What wonderful memories you have! Thank you for sharing them! Praying for strength & comfort for you & your loved ones!

  13. I am so sorry to hear about your Uncle passing away.

  14. if he was related to you he was awesome and will be missed for a long time to come.

    LOVE ya.

  15. Keeping you in my thoughts



I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?