There is a 15-year spread between my mom and her seven older siblings: Edmund, Bernard, Carolyn, Ann, the twins (Raymond & Robert) and Grace. Yet despite the age difference, they were a very close knit group. Let me rephrase that, they are a very close knit group.
When my mother was born, her father was almost 54-years old. So my mom, and her sister Grace, both remember that their big brother, Ed, was like a second father to them. Mom recalls that he'd swing her up on his shoulders and proudly carry his little Mary Lou around.
Ed was in the Navy during World War II, so he was brave. And handsome. And strong. And kind. And gentle. And well, pretty much everything that an older brother should be.
He was a pretty great uncle, too, considering he would show up to whatever family gathering he was invited, including but not limited to, nieces' and nephews' high school graduations, weddings, birthday parties and great nieces' and nephews' baptisms. And once, he very patiently sat through my "Born to the Hand Jive" gymnastics routine four times straight ("Oops! Sorry Uncle Ed. I messed up, again!! *Smile.* Can I start over?") when I was eight-years-old.
After that, I didn't see him for another 10 years.
(It's no wonder.)
Uncle Ed married Aunt Bunny (whose wonderful recipe I posted here) and they had five children together. For the past 35 years or so, Uncle Ed and Aunt Bunny have made the pilgrimage from Massachusetts south to Florida to escape the cold New England winters. Their two eldest daughters, Donna and Nancy, are only a few years younger than my mom and as it turns out, they live less than 10 miles from where my mother and Jim vacation every winter, in Florida. So for the past few years, whenever I'd visit Florida to see my mom, I'd usually be lucky enough to also see my Uncle Ed, Aunt Bunny and cousins.
The last time I saw Uncle Ed, he was recovering from a bicycle accident. Although he was 90-years old, he was still doing yoga every day and would ride his bike whenever possible. Apparently, he'd been out for his daily bike ride and some youngster cut him off. He fell off his bike, fractured some ribs and had to slow down for a little while. But soon enough, he got right back in to his exercise routine.
Because that's what an awesome 90-year old man does.
Tonight, I was combing through my photo albums, looking for a picture of Uncle Ed. I find it hard to believe that although I've taken close to 50,000 pictures in the past few years, the most recent picture I could find was from our wedding day in 1994. Wow, time goes fast. Now, when I look at this picture, it strikes me that we've lost four of the eight beautiful people who were seated around this table. Uncle Ed is sitting second from the left.
Last year, Uncle Ed was diagnosed with leukemia and this afternoon, I received the call that he'd passed away, earlier today. He was 92-years young and he will be missed by all who knew him. Most especially, I believe, by his doting little sisters who to this day, still think he is one of the greatest guys to ever live.
Rock on, Uncle Ed.
Thank you for being such a decent man and good friend to everyone. And thank you for sitting through an hour of my eight-year-old gymnastics routine. I'm sure you're well aware that there really is a special place in heaven for people like you.