Monday, April 25, 2005

A good man

My Uncle Wayne died this past weekend. He was a good man. He did an incredible job caring for his wife Betty and helping her raise his kids Donna, Linda, and David, to be caring and kind like he was. They were what most would call a "traditional" family in our country, even by the 1960s/70s. He worked outside the home to provide for them, while it was Aunt Betty's "job" to stay at home taking care of the household. (Of course, we all know now that is the harder of the two careers!) They were incredibly active in their church; Wayne was a handy man with tools and had a vast knowledge of mechanical devices, and Betty was the treasurer for many years. They had a small patch of land where they grew fruit and vegetables for eating and canning to supplement the store-bought food. Uncle Wayne made sure his family had plenty, even if that didn't always mean money. My cousins were rich in all the important ways--they grew up right, as the saying goes, and a lot of the credit goes to the moral and ethical codes Uncle Wayne lived by.
Uncle Wayne was still a country boy from Carolina when he died, in many ways, even though he spent the majority of his life in (progressively less) semi-rural Maryland. He knew the rhythms of the land, and he enjoyed growing and tending his parcel of it. In fact, he tended land that wasn't even his own, at a not-so-little cost to himself. His lot lay next to a proposed street for a subdivision that went unbuilt for decades, meaning that the natural contours of his lot enclosed county property. The county, however, seemingly relied on Wayne to care for this strip of land adjacent to his own, because to my knowledge, no county landscaper or mower ever came out to tend it. Uncle Wayne and his family (and my own whenever we went to visit, which was fairly often) enjoyed the use of this extra land, but they also took great pains to make sure it looked as good as if it were actually their own. To do otherwise, I imagine, would have seemed ridiculous to a man as dedicated to community and propriety as Wayne. It was simply the right thing to do.
And when the county finally came to put the street and the subdivision in, beyond a few inquiries as to whether tending it for 30-odd years amounted to anything official, Uncle Wayne took that in stride as well.
Uncle Wayne developed cancer from long-term exposure to asbestos from the power plant where he worked the bulk of his years. His final year was probably pretty unpleasant, but he faced his fate with a grace and a stoicism that exemplifies both his faith and his nature. The Beautiful One and I were incredibly lucky to see him a few short weeks ago--she for the first, and now, only time--and by all accounts it was one of his best last evenings. He just seemed a bit tired to me (understandably), and the last word I had heard at that point was that the treatments were working. Shortly after our visit, however, he took a dramatic turn for the worse, and he knew that his time had come. He decided that fighting the disease and the cure was too much to bear, and Uncle Wayne prepared to meet, and then met, his end with the quiet dignity he possessed in enormous quantities.
I know his family--my family--will miss him tremendously; he was a source of great strength, knowledge, and best of all, humor. It seems just plain wrong that I will never again eat his barbecue chicken, or play croquet in that huge yard, or listen as he, Aunt Betty, Mom, and Dad play pinochle until late at night, even as the kids schemed ways of convincing them all to let my sister and me sleep over. Uncle Wayne, I love you, and I will miss you. You were a good man.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute. :)

9:27 PM  
Anonymous GOM said...

Bry: Aunt Betty called tonite & mentioned how much she liked the tribute. It made me cry - it was so beautiful...

8:39 PM  

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