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Sun Oct 26, 2014, 10:48 AM

Death of an uncle

My uncle Henry died a few weeks ago. Oh, it's ok. He was well into his nineties and he passed peacefully in his own bed surrounded by his loved ones. We should all be so lucky.

We all thought him a bit of a bore when I was growing up. A small, slightly pompous man much prone to bluster and hyperbole, he was the only one of his brothers to be in a protected profession during the war and escape conscription. He was a chemist at I.G. Farben, and as fussy and punctilious as that profession makes him sound. I remember how we used to mock and laugh at him when we were kids. My own imitations of his bluster might well have been the best and drawn the most laughs.

His one uncharacteristic act was to fall head over heels in love with a young Yugoslavian assistant assigned to him during the war. By all accounts, his love was fully reciprocated by her, but the relationship nevertheless fell afoul of the people in charge and they were split up.

Sundered by the chaos of war and its aftermath and later by the iron curtain, he spent years trying to find her but never did. He married and raised a family, and was a good, kind and loving father. Nobody ever talked about his war time love that got away. We all just knew.

I wasn't there, but apparently when he died he spent his last breaths sobbing her name.

Poor, boring, blustering uncle Henry. I suppose we never really knew you.

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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply Death of an uncle (Original post)
Ron Obvious Oct 2014 OP
pipi_k Oct 2014 #1
Ron Obvious Oct 2014 #5
Jenoch Oct 2014 #2
MrMickeysMom Oct 2014 #3
orleans Oct 2014 #4
Ron Obvious Oct 2014 #6
DFW Oct 2014 #7
Ron Obvious Oct 2014 #8
pinboy3niner Oct 2014 #9
MrMickeysMom Oct 2014 #11
pinboy3niner Oct 2014 #12
PassingFair Oct 2014 #10
CaliforniaPeggy Oct 2014 #13

Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 11:12 AM

1. OK, so...

I have to admit that my eyes are watering up over this.

We just never know what painful things people carrying around in their hearts.

I don't know if there's an afterlife, but if there is, and his first love is there, then perhaps poor Uncle Henry is once again young and happy.

Shit. I have to stop before I really go all weepy and stuff.

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Response to pipi_k (Reply #1)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 02:47 PM

5. It's a nice thought anyway....

I confess I felt a bit weepy myself when I heard about this.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 11:36 AM

2. My last uncle died almost two years ago

 

87 years old. He was nothing like your Uncle Henry. My uncle spent hus WWII years hunting subs in the Caribbean, but he never engaged the enemy. His war years were just an adventure. He got married in 1946 to a girl he broke up with several times. She was persistent and they were happily married for 27 years. They were still married when he died and my miserable aunt is still alive. I still miss my uncle.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 12:05 PM

3. I know it's strange to theorize this...

.. but, he may JUST have seen her there when getting ready to leave this world.

You are right, we should all be so lucky to pass this way into what I still call, "the abyss"

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Response to MrMickeysMom (Reply #3)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 02:09 PM

4. that's what i thought when i read this. he saw her--she was there, and he was overcome

with emotion as he sobbed her name

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Response to MrMickeysMom (Reply #3)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 02:49 PM

6. That never even occurred to me!

What an interesting thought! Who knows what the dying brain can conjure up?

I think we were all a bit relieved that his wife wasn't alive any longer to hear it. That would have been awful to hear, I imagine. But maybe she always knew...

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #6)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 03:30 PM

7. The dying brain lets go with a lot of suppressed stuff

When my wife's dad was slipping away, he started calling out to long-dead members of his unit in WWII to warn them of incoming artillery shells, one of which blasted half his leg off (gangrene took the rest of it).

When he was still all there, he NEVER talked about his war experience except to say that it was so unbelievably horrible, he hoped all his grandchildren were girls so they would never have to serve in the military (and he got his wish).

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Response to DFW (Reply #7)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 04:01 PM

8. My father was the same

He never talked about his war experiences either, but he got uncharacteristically irate at any movie that seemed to glorify war. He particularly detested John Wayne, I recall.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Reply #8)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 04:41 PM

9. Suppression of war experience was the norm before Vietnam

It took some VN vets opening up and fighting for VA recognition of war trauma (one type of PTSD) as well as the work of mental health professionals working with a large population of psychologically-affected VN vets to bring change.

I suppressed my war experience for a lot of years. And around the time I had my psychological catharsis and opened up, a well-known pacifist columnist did a WaPo piece about 'Welcome Home' parades for VN vets promoting Reagan's militarism. My reply to him, published in the WaPo with an illustration they added, pointed out the benefit of the parades in bringing more vets out of the closet.

On a side note, a funny thing: When I first joined DU, I mentioned my op-ed WaPo reply in a post, and one member here remembered it. He had done a paper about it in school, and he PM'd me and nailed me by my real name. That was kind of a Twilight Zone moment...

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Response to pinboy3niner (Reply #9)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 07:04 PM

11. Sometime can you reveal it?

Your op ed piece, not your real name, of course

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Response to MrMickeysMom (Reply #11)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 07:20 PM

12. It's no big deal, really

I agreed with the columnist in some ways, but I wanted to point out the importance of outreach to vets to help them face the things they were suppressing and process them.

Later, I wound up speaking with that columnist (Colman McCarthy) on the same stage at a peace conference.

To share what I wrote I'd have to re-type the whole thing. But I liked how the Washington Post illustrated my feelings about Vietnam vets finally being able to truly "come home": with a drawing of a paratrooper descending in midair.

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Response to Ron Obvious (Original post)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 06:35 PM

10. Jeez. I hope his wife didn't hear that.

I feel sorry for her having lived her whole married life being second choice.

Blech.

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Response to PassingFair (Reply #10)

Sun Oct 26, 2014, 07:25 PM

13. Ron Obvious said she had already died, thank goodness. n/t

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