It’s been rough in the Queendom.
In the past week, I lost two men in my life. People I adored, but with whom I spent very little time.
First, my brother, Rex. If we want to get technical about things, he was my step-brother. I don’t really like the title of “step”. He was my brother.
While we spent much of our early years together, I eventually moved in with my mom and away from Rex. He grew up and left home as well.
He was disabled and lived in a group-home about 30 minutes from my house. After moving back to this area, I used to stop and see him here and there. But in recent years, my life got busy and my schedule filled. Each time I drove past his house, I’d say to myself, “I really need to visit. I’ll do that next week for sure.” Next week, came and went. I didn’t stop.
Late last week, his mom got a call from the group home telling her someone on the staff had tested positive for COVID-19. By the end of that day, he was found unresponsive in his room and transported to the hospital. He tested positive for the virus two-days later. A few days after that, he was gone. No one from our family could visit the hospital, no one could say goodbye or even hold his hand. The medical staff graciously set up a video call so he could hear his mother and sister’s voice one last time.
I did not get the chance to apologize for not checking in more often. I was tempted to feel sorry for myself. I was tempted to not allow myself to grieve because I didn’t deserve to. After all, I hadn’t seen him in a long time. What place is it of mine to feel sorrow? He deserved better from me.
But, I did grieve. I do miss him. He was such a kind soul. We had years of shared experience together. His smile lit up the room. He was silly. He was loyal. My heart breaks that I no longer even have the option of stopping in to see him. He loved John Wayne movies, music and ice cream. He did not speak, but he didn’t have to. His actions always carried kindness.
My Uncle Dick carried the same energy. He was part of my biological family that I found a few years ago. He was my biological father’s brother.
I did not know Dick well. The first day I met him, he looked at me and said, “Hi, I’m your favorite Uncle.”
How could I not love that man?
I think I’ve seen in three times since that moment and talked to him on the phone once or twice. I just liked him. He was obviously kind. An amazing sense of humor.
Generous. These are things I know for sure.
In what I’ve learned about this side of my family, I know that he was filled with an affection and attention to the family ranch and the animals he nurtured. His heart was a part of the hills and the mountains and the high plains of Southern Utah. His blood was thick with tradition and compassion; the two main ingredients in a rancher’s heart.
The family I barely know is a part of me. My Uncle Dick is a part of me. The father I never met gave me a legacy wrapped in love of land and livestock. Dick explained that story to me each time we were together.
There are only two of my biological father’s siblings left and they are my only connection to a man who gave me green eyes and a bit of temper, a love of entertaining and a good dance. There is an Aunt I talk to almost daily. She is entirely special and it kills me I live eight hours from her. There is another uncle I haven’t really had the chance to get to know. When I met him, I looked him in the eye and asked, “Be honest, did you know about me?” He looked at me and said, “Hell, if we would have known about you, you’d have been down here working.”
Different approach than his brother, yes. But it endeared him to me just the same. I’m hoping when I can travel to Utah again, I can join him in a cup of coffee and get to know him as well.
Maybe another day, I’ll enjoy a picnic with my siblings and their children to celebrate the life COVID-19 took away. Someday, I can visit my cousins in Utah and learn more about the people I missed out on and the land they loved.
But for now, I’ll have a glass of chocolate milk and toast to my brother. And I’ll grill up some lamb chops and a steak or two and celebrate the life of a rancher I wish I knew better.
In this time of nothing being normal, those are the things I can do.
Blessed be, my Queendom.
Blessed be….and be well.