A Bad Week for the Family

07.24.09 | Comment?

My previous post detailed how I and my family received the news of my Uncle Bruce's death last week. There had been some confusion due to miscommunication combined with the foreknowledge that my father's cousin, John Dupree, was dying. It was sorted out and my father spent two days out in Santa Rosa last week for Bruce's funeral. Sad times.

This week the other shoe dropped. It was Monday and my wife, my kids, and I had just finished a many hour drive from Pittsburgh to Chincoteague, Virginia to take the boys to the beach for the first time. We were pulling into the parking lot of our hotel when my cell phone rang. The phone identified the caller as "Mom & Dad", a label I cannot bring myself to change since my mother's death last summer. I answered somewhat rushed, as the kids wanted to get out of the car and stretch their legs. My elder sister let me know that they'd gotten news from Cincinnati a couple of hours earlier. John Dupree had died.

My father grew up with his brothers, Scot and Bruce, his Sister, Mavis (sometimes Jean), and his cousin, John Dupree. As I understand it, John was like the fourth brother. They were together all the time and it was very comfortable.

Scot died a dozen years ago. I can't say I knew him, or any of my father's siblings, very well. I remember his house. I remember the pool and my cousin Toni's wedding in their yard back in 1985. I remember a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rufus who was a wonderfully large beast. I distinctly remember there being a small red drinking bird that was loads of fun to play with as a kid. I remember, I think, him watching the morning news on the television with the sound turned down so he could listen to the radio news instead. I remember his wife Murray doing crossword puzzles in pen. She passed away before Scot.

Bruce passed away last week. And now John is gone this week. I had never been to either of their houses. I had met each a few times over the years, but never for very long. John and his wife Helen came to my wedding. Bruce came to my sister's wedding and to my parent's 50th anniversary. I saw them all at my grandfather's funeral, of course, and at my cousin Toni's wedding. They may well have been at my cousin Robin's wedding too, although I didn't make it to that one. I remember Bruce helping me out of a jam in the early nineties. I remember meeting Bruce's kids when I was small and they were smaller. I remember discussing Italo Calvino with Helen. I remember noticing at Toni's rehearsal dinner how uniformly gin-and-tonic was the drink of choice for the my father's generation.

Now I keep somewhat in touch with a few of my cousins on Facebook. I don't know them as well as I would like to and may never. The Leavitt family has always been far-flung, with each branch going off to find their way wherever it may take them. Regardless, that tenuous connection to family means a great deal to me. My mother died last summer. Other than his own children and grandchildren, my father has just his sister left. I am hoping the next news will be better.

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