Saturday, April 9, 2011

Buzz Buzz Goes The Needle

Although years and miles kept them from being as close as they might have been, they were still brothers. They were six years apart and Chuck had joined the Navy right after graduating high school, did his stretch on a nuclear submarine or on base in Groton, Connecticut, then moved to Washington to work for Lockheed after discharge. More than the six years, 700 miles separated them. There were occasional phone calls to talk about motorcycles, their one common bond. When Mark found out his brother had gllioblastoma, a nasty form of brain cancer, it hit him hard. We made a family trip a year ago November, taking his mom and our girls up to eastern Washington to make contact. The Topping boys fried the turkey and compared haircuts. Their kids and our kids connected. Mark connected with our nieces and nephew as the only brother of their Dad. Chuck's grandkids didn't know what to think of Mark or even what to call him since he looked so much like their Grandpa but we decided against "Uncle Grandpa" when we realized how much it sounded as if the family tree didn't branch.

Chuck's health declined in the next year so and, when it became clear he wouldn't survive and his time was short, Mark and I took his Mom to visit early this year. Chuck still had control of his faculties and even his sense of humor though morphine had dulled his reaction time, sometimes requiring patience to wait out the response. We talked about the holidays and the visits from his four children and their babies. I commented that it must have been noisy and he said..."family is always good".

The family took turns sitting with Chuck, chit-chatting about the past. No real talk about the future, except plans for eagle tattoos for their Dad who was devout and inspired by a cross stitch above his bed: Isaiah 40:31 "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles" . Chuck may have been a sailor but had no tattoos and didn't quite "get" the concept but it was something they had all decided. Kids spent time while they had it with their father. His brother and mom with their only connection to their past together.

"As the ink and the blood mix with pain"

Chuck lost his battle with the cancer in February and we made plans to head up for the services - one on each side of the State. The first service would be in Kent at the Tahoma National Cemetery where he would receive full military honors. Tears flowed as the old soldiers and young sailors paid respect to Chuck's military service. The 21 guns were fired. The flag was handed to the widow. We asked the groundskeepers if they would mind our watching as they prepared the site where Chuck's ashes were to be placed. Though unaccustomed to being observed, they dug the hole and treated the ground with honor befitting the veterans interred there, even as they placed the soil and pounded the stake for the temporary marker.
In the week after Chuck's passing, his children visited tattoo parlors to have an eagle inscribed on their skin as a memorial to their dad. Even his wife, who previously had no interest in ink, had an eagle permanently placed on her body. Mark was waiting for the right design to dedicate to his brother and finally had the work done this week. Max at Sailor's Grave did the honors.
"each drop of blood is a token of love"


Monica... That One Girl said...

Beautifully written, Mom. I'm sure Uncle Chuck can appreciate the humor and love that come through.

And "Uncle Grandpa" will make me giggle for a little while. I can see how Izzy would deduce that name for Dad. :-)

Chuck said...

Thanks Debbie! That is awesome. Marcia