These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Monday, August 13, 2007

farewell uncle eli

once again, as it happened nearly two years ago, my phone rang and i saw it was my sister. i felt something odd for a split second before answering, something weird (i'd spoken to her yesterday evening).

linda told me my uncle elias, my dad's oldest brother would probably not survive past the day (sunday). he'd gotten sick very quickly. elias had a stroke nearly three years ago and has spent most of that time in a nursing home.he had a blood clot that damaged his brain.

a few minutes past 5 sunday afternoon, linda called me back crying. elias died. he'd died a few minutes before 4 texas time. he died while the priest was performing last rites with family surrounding him.

according to linda, eli was fine saturday. he was blowing kisses at his granddaughter maya. suddenly sunday morning he took a bad turn with high fever and he declined from there. he was on oxygen when linda arrived, with nursing home personnel unwilling to move him because of his delicate state.

she said she knew he'd died when the mask over his mouth and nose wasn't fogged up anymore as he'd stopped taking a breath.

eli is the second oldest next to my aunt Mine, who's 78. he's was a few years younger.

how can i best describe eli? well, he was a quiet man, sort of like my dad. i think that's why they got along just fine. he talked quietly and walked slowly. he was a hard worker, too. he'd make his way to the ranch twice a week and found himself busy doing this or that every time he was there.

and never a trip to the ranch went by when he didn't stopp in to see rena and ricky. those kids meant so much to him. once they spotted ricky dangling from eli's shoulders as he carried the kid on his back (until he was told to stop).

and he had a big heart. he always gave when he could and never thought of himsef.

we saw him last during our trip to texas in december. we stopped by and my aunt took him around the nursing home for a ride on a wheelchair. she left him by a wall as it was time for him to be put to bed. the last thing i remember doing is patting him on a bony shoulder and giving him a kiss on the forehead.

the last conversation we had before he got the stroke i called him and my aunt Chica at home. i spoke to him for a little bit.he asked about the weather.

the last time i saw him before the stroke, he, aunt chica, tio gocha and patsy and me and dawn went out to eat at golden corral. it was a meal we enjoyed before we left for michigan a few days later. the golden corral was his favorite restaurant in corpus.

i can still see that small-framed man with an old straw hat on his white-haired head, a hard candy in his mouth after eating lunch prepared by his sister on a saturday, strolling over to fix something that was broken.

farewell uncle eli. you will be missed. you were a good man.
love you.


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