Friday, May 05, 2006
When you come from a family as large as mine, it's easy to lose touch with folks. The Internet's been great for keeping track of the extensions upon extensions of family that are the result of my mom's 9 brothers and sisters, but Dad's family is a little trickier. They're not the greatest communicators (ok, that's way sugarcoating it; have a phone conversation with my dad sometime and you'll see what I mean...it's like pulling teeth and very formal), so more effort is required, and unfortunately stuff slips through the cracks. If a family member decides to try and live their retirement as an alcoholic, there's only so much you can do to keep tabs on them; and you leave the rest to prayer. The Goddess came and took my Uncle Neil this week. My mind's been full of childhood memories since finding out, so here's a little vent.
Cornelius J. Lyons was born approximately 70 years ago to the late Cornelius J. Lyons and the still-kicking Mildred Grace Lyons of Norwalk, Connecticut. A taciturn man and devout Catholic in his youth, Neil owned an automotive transmission shop in Norwalk for many years. He married Jill (last name unknown) and produced 5 beautiful children: Colleen, Neil Jr., Lynda, Kelly, and Allyson, only to have Jill succumb to cancer around 1975 (time approximate, but I wasn't more than 6). He married Patricia Hicks (that last name's a guess, it's been a while) and continued to run his automotive shop while raising his children in a fairly bucolic lifestyle on a mini-farm in Redding, Connecticut. His children grown, retirement took he and Pat to Bonita Springs, Florida, where unfortunately the marriage dissolved. He moved back to Connecticut, where the difficulties of his life appear to have caught up with him. He finally moved to Danbury, where he suffered a recent fall, which lead to the discovery of internal bleeding and multiple cancers. He was placed in a drug-induced coma and never awoke.
Sounds like a downer, I know, but all I've been thinking about is sweet memories of growing up in Connecticut. We lived 40 minutes from Redding, an hour from Norwalk, so we visited Dad's side of the family pretty frequently. Nanie and Dad's older brother Dan's family lived in Norwalk, 4 cousins on that side + Neil's 5. Neil's place in Redding was really pretty; big Colonial house, small barn/carport with fenced corral for cows and pigs, small backyard for running around. I learned the small jolt that an electric fence gives if you touch it. Cyril and I rolled around with their dog, Precious, so much one day that we both went home with allergic reactions around our eyes. We saw a nest of tiny baby rats. The pigs were really cute and clean, and the cow ate something called Crunchy 16—Dad loved the name of that stuff. Nanie and I were penpals back then. The air's cleaner up there.
I ache that I can't go up for the funeral, and so I write. We just don't have any savings; even if it had happened last week when we were rolling in my quarterly bonus and the tax return, it wouldn't have been realistic. I pray we find a way for me to go up there when Nanie passes. She's pushing 95 and just took a fall too—I've reconciled I think, with the fact that seeing her in 2002 was the last time; but saying goodbye is quite another matter.
It's been probably 15 years since I saw Uncle Neil, I think I was in college. His hair had gone entirely white, and he looked the most like Popie in the face. All the Lyons men are quiet guys who keep their cards close to their chests. As they age, the eldest, Dan and the youngest, Tom, have suffered significant hearing loss so it seems more appropriate for them somehow, that element of taciturn alertness. Laugh-out-loud funny to think of my dad as the most gregarious of the four, but you really have to have grown up with him to appreciate the humor—the man has mellowed markedly since we kids all moved out. He listens more carefully, he's more open to suggestions, and while positive emotion still baffles him, he's less likely to shut down if presented with it.
What am I getting at? I think it's that even though we all knew Neil's lifestyle was going to shorten his life, I just didn't expect him to pass away. This sounds awful, but Dad's supposed to go first. I'll never be prepared for when it happens, but the plain fact is that the man is a medical miracle walking around and going to work everyday. His carotid artery is entirely blocked on one side. Normally the blood in your body goes up one side of the carotid, feeds the brain, and goes down the other side back into the body. He's got one side doing the work of both, which means a life of medications and mini-strokes. His doctors say they can't go in and fix it, because a) they're able to control the condition with medication, and b) they'd most likely lose him on the table anyway if they did go in. So he gets up and goes to work everyday, mows the lawn on the weekends, and monitors his BP and sits nice and still when a transient ischemic attack (TIA) hits. What else can you do, ya know? He'd balk at someone else doing the lawn, and besides, it's good for his spirits and his health outside of that little condition.
And this is outside of the 24-year-old Dacron graft holding his aorta together. You know the thing that killed John Ritter? Dad had that back in 1982. It's f*ing remarkable that he's with us today...and Meara for that matter, she was born in 1983.
So today's my Beltane. The sun's at 15 degrees Taurus. I'll go outside tonight and light tealights to lives gone and lives to come and meditate and move on. Because there's still so much left to this year, sortings and packings and plannings and yes, maybe even baby making by Christmastime. My life is full to bursting, and I'm terribly grateful.