|Memories of Uncle Jim, by his niece Adele|
|At the age of 22, I knew Uncle
Jim for less than a third of his life. I cannot recount a history of his
life, but I would like to share what I observed about Uncle Jim during
my visits with him throughout the past four months. Growing up, I
thought of slide shows, plaid flannel shirts, and longwinded arguments
when it came to Uncle Jim, but during the time that I spent with him
over the past several months, I realized that he embodied much more.
There are certain characteristics that can be classified as
"Din" traits in our family and I believe that Uncle Jim truly
Like all Dins, Uncle Jim was stubborn. This is something our family was too, but one day, I realized that not everyone was accustomed to. During his stay at the first Bed and Board he lived at, he had a bed with a guardrail on the side. Apparently, he did not like the rail and decided that he would climb around it and out of bed. At the time, he was pretty weak and the caretaker found him on the ground in the morning. This was a huge danger of course and so she scolded Uncle Jim. But he did not accept this. Rather he tried to argue his point. The caretaker tried to explain that it was for his own safety, but he insisted that he did not want the rail because it made him feel claustrophobic. Well, almost like two Dins arguing, neither would back down. Andrea and I watched as the caretaker argued her point, shaking her finger at Uncle Jim while he stubbornly sat there in his wheelchair, arguing back. He was never afraid to argue his opinion.
I think that to be a member of our family, you need to have a good sense of humor. When Uncle Jim left the hospital back at the end of June, early July, he was using a wheelchair. This was supposed to be temporary until he regained his strength. In addition to using the wheelchair, he was also encouraged to use a walker. However, Uncle Jim always seemed to have an excuse for why he wasn’t using his walker. In the beginning of his wheelchair use, I think everyone was a little worried he might become overly dependent upon it, stunting his progress. Uncle Jim must have been repeatedly prompted to try to walk more by each and every person that went to visit him and yet he always had an excuse.
Often I remember him saying that he did practice walking with the walker, but at night, when he was by himself and no one was around, on his own terms, of course. I think we were all a little skeptical and were unsure of whether he was really practicing or whether he just wanted us to stop nagging. Then one day, Uncle John, my Dad, and I went to visit Uncle Jim. While Uncle John was in the other room, talking to the caretaker, my Dad and I sat and talked with Uncle Jim. All of a sudden, he said something like, "They don’t realize that I can walk by myself…look." He stood up out of his wheel chair and walked a few steps in a circle, then sat back down in his wheelchair. He leaned in and said with a chuckle, "No one else knows I can do that." My jaw literally dropped open. Apparently, he had been practicing and he wanted it to be our little secret. I think he wanted to be able to stand up one day and prove to everyone who had been nagging him that he could walk on his own terms.
Although it was difficult watching Uncle Jim’s health decline this past year, I do believe that his personality carried through until the very end. His mind remained very sharp. In fact, it was almost as if you could see the wheels turning inside of his head at times.
Shortly after Uncle Jim passed, my Dad commented that although Uncle Jim lived frugally, he was never CHEAP. He said that Uncle Jim would deprive himself in order to help someone else. Throughout the years, Uncle Jim had helped my parents and more recently, he wanted to help me. As many of you know, Uncle Jim agreed to rent one side of his duplex to me after I graduated and moved home. Since no one had lived there for practically a decade, there were several repairs that needed to be made before I moved in. Each and every time I visited Uncle Jim during the past four months, even if only a day had passed since the last time he had asked me, he asked the progress of the Duplex. I could tell that he could not wait for me to move in, perhaps even more than I could. He spoke of the project with excitement, most of which what I think was due to the fact that he knew he was helping me out a great deal.
In the time that I spent with Uncle Jim, I could tell that family was very important to him. One day he told me that we were very lucky to have our family because everyone gets along so well. He pointed out that some of us have other sides of the family that do not get along so well, but that the Din side does. He sounded very proud of the cousins who were helping him with his personal matters and with improvements to the duplex. He then went on to ask about several of the younger cousins and was interested in where they were going to school. I sensed that he was very proud to be a part of our family and to have so many people looking after him. One night my Dad returned from taking Uncle Jim to the emergency room with Uncle John. He told my Mom and me of how the nurse commented to Uncle Jim that he was lucky to have his brothers to bring him to the hospital. Uncle Jim responded fondly, pointing first to Uncle John and then to my Dad, "this one takes care of my Dr. appointments and this one takes care of my medicine." Whether it was taking him to the doctor, tending to his personal matters, or visiting him, I think that Uncle Jim appreciated that family was there for him.
The qualities that I saw in Uncle Jim are qualities that I see in my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my parents, and in my brother. They are traits Uncle Jim demonstrated in his personality and in his spirit. Thus, I am confident that he will not be forgotten because we will be reminded of him often in each other.