Cafe Hitch-hike


It's a probable reality

Uncle Joe's probation officer was a dote, a sweetheart. When I got in touch with her by phone, I introduced myself and my connection with Uncle Joe. Jaquelyn confirmed she was his probation officer and paused; she wanted to hear my side of it first. She was in the justice system and they do certain things to get people to talk, but I was comfortable with being honest. I told her we were aware he skipped on his probation. J. asked me what I thought made him do that. I said he didn't seem to want to be in Michigan anymore. She seemed satisfied with my interpretation of his situation and choice.

Uncle Joe didn't completely bail on his probation. J. said that he called her once a month since he skipped town, so she knew he was in Texas. She told him she couldn't do anything about that, but he still checked in once a month. J. She said he always made her laugh, but then his calls dropped off and she wondered what had happened.

I didn't want to drown J. with details, but I told her his diagnosis, and that he spent the last months of his life being taken care of by his family. It was too late to do anything about the cancer once it was diagnosed, and it went downhill when he wasn't able to walk or keep working. Uncle Joe wasn't alone when he died. He was getting treatment, seemed to be in peace, and had his family near.

(Other untold detail: Uncle Joe couldn't speak much at the end of his life; they weren't sure if it was a stroke or something else. It was late one night, and when Mom was going to bed, he told her he wanted to stay in the recliner chair and watch some TV in the living room. He died sometime in the night or early morning. When Mom work up 7 hours later, he was deceased. She was the first one to see him. She then called her siblings, and then one of the twins Uncle Bert called me about a hour and a half afterward.

Hospice had advised Mom to call the police if he passed away, and she did. The cop talked to her and everyone else separately, but didn't seem to suspect foul play. Although many in my family had run-ins with the law, they recognized he was doing a routine task. My relatives also noted the cop's presence was probably necessary to keep order. I heard the cop was able to keep a couple of people separated, and was able to talk it through with at least one other.)

J. said she appreciated getting an update on my uncle. She would close his probation case once I faxed her his death certificate to her office. I did so later that day. In the cover sheet, I gave her the web address to his obituary and wrote, "he passed away in peace, and he definitely left joyful memories for many. Thank you for being open to keeping in touch with our favorite absconder (family joke)." I really meant it, and wished her well. Uncle Joe continued humoring people from the grave! I found it funny that he kept in touch. I suppose it was his quirky way of following a rule he broke on his own terms although he would dutifully abide by other rules. He make both me and his probation officer laugh.

Wow, just recalling and writing this made me touch it all again. I now see I numbed myself a bit at that time. Maybe I donned the thicker skin for protection; I didn't want everything going on to overwhelm me. I guess before thinking all of this over, I needed a little distance from the scene to clear my head, get some perspective, and... have the strength to not get completely drained by it. I needed to spend my energy wisely so I could keep stepping through it. I needed this respite. It was a way for me to be still and gently rejuvenate. No wonder why my body or mind didn't revolt at this. Processing this take a lot of energy.

I was really missing him after Christmas. Even though I know it's the cycle of life, and I think he remains alive through us, I still feel a bit angry. I think is, 'why did you leave us? It was too soon! Why did you have to leave us?' Also, I guess a part of me feels angry that he had to live in the state he was in for-- quite some time. I think I've already written about it here, but a part of me feels angry that things got out of hand. In the past, he held things together pretty well (but sure loved to party), but at a certain point, something just got unbalanced and the partying got the upper hand. Yeah, a part of me feels angry for whatever reason it was that he didn't get help. They always say people have choice and free will, but the problem with addiction is it terribly stunts both of these.

According to Uncle J, he once drove by Uncle Joe who was sitting at a bus stop. He was wasted, blabbering, half-dressed, and staggering about. J. thought it was funny and said he kept driving, but drove back to get him. Wouldn't normal people see that as a sign of something terribly wrong and try to get the guy help somehow? Uncle Jerk also claimed that some of our relatives used Joe because he either funded or located... party favors. In other words, people took advantage of his weakness to mooch off him. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't live around there. Did things really get that fucked up in the family? Is he making this up? If so, I'd say it accomplished reaching new lows! I sure hope it's not true, but it's a probable reality.

I see all of this as another big reason I didn't go to Texas this year. Am I delusional, or were things really that jacked up between everyone there? How did it get this way? Going to Texas would remind me about all of that again. One of the reasons I like going there in the first place is to reconnect with the people I grew up with and cared for me. I have much different memories of them, and seeing them often takes me back to some really nice times in life and brings out a glow. However, I guess the family always had their wars, even back then. The family now is just in a different state than it was long ago.

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