"So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family, that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty." Haniel Long
Yale Law School
Environmental science center
Yale School of Music
Cheshire Connecticut Town Hall
Hitchcock Phillips House
Uncle Jimmy grew up in a little town in the great state of Connecticut by the name of Cheshire. As a Baby Boomer, he grew through that whole Cultural Revolution of the 60’s. As it was in that era, parents weren’t as restricted toward raising the child. Foul language may dictate it appropriate punishment for one’s “Mouth to be washed out with soap.” If you happened to miss curfew, you may find yourself locked out of the house for the night. The secret as a child growing up then was to keep a low profile, then as soon as possible, get the hell out of there.
Uncle Jimmy had the fortune, as well as misfortune, of his father being a university professor at of all places Yale. As Ivy League schools go, in Connecticut especially, it doesn’t get any better than Yale. I’m talking about being a student…to be a Professor, well that was really something, as it should be. Uncle Jimmy’s parents fully expected their son to attend Yale, in the footsteps of his father then go on to be a Professor at Yale…in the footsteps of his Father. Uncle Jimmy didn’t quite see it that way though. He saw it more like being in the shadow of his father. He knew the limited light, the existence of darkness, dictated the unpleasant memories of childhood. Uncle Jimmy knew the best disinfectant was sunlight.
Knowing full well how the shadows progressed from light toward darkness, he joined the Navy, which was completely respectable, his Father having served his country as well. Once again Uncle Jimmy had avoided the repercussions of conflict and in his words, “he lived to run another day.” Until the day his folks informed him of the terrible news that their Grandson was moving all the way to Arizona. It was a terrible thing for his father to do to the grandparents; and the mother of course. As always he instinctively maintained a low profile upon the news.
It was undeniably great because Timmy previously lived in NY. Now he would be the next state over, a few hours drive was all that separated him from his only nephew.
To this day we don’t know if Uncle Jimmy found the cause worth fighting for or if he was sniffing around for the big fight. Its like the guy who finally figures out you can't bring text books to a knife fight. Just like punching the bully in the nose, it would be over with before they knew what hit them. Now me personally, I’m on the side of the fence that says he was sniffing for a fight.To be sure it would exceed his greatest expectations.
He called his sister, unable to contain or disguise his elation to confirm his nephew was moving so close. “Would you mind if I visited Tim” he boldly asked his sister. She tried to burst his bubble, “his dad will never let that happen…” but quickly added, “And Mom and Dad will never… Almost as if he saw the shadows approaching, he was prepared, snapping back before she was able to finish the sentence; I’m not asking for their permission, actually I’m not asking for yours either, I’m just letting you know I have every intention of spoiling my only nephew.
Within seconds of slamming down the telephone, in those days one could make a dramatic statement by slamming the phone down upon its receiver. It was quite a powerful gesture. Anyway, within seconds of throwing down the gauntlet, the inevitable happened. “Uncle Jimmy would later say he had no idea what he said. It was like something deep inside took over for that moment in time.” His parents indeed had no idea what just hit them. Their son Jimmy had always been the good child.
Well he never got caught, unlike his sister whom was always in trouble. She pulled out their secret weapon, the one that always worked in the past. “Jimmy we forbid you to visit your nephew. Blood is thicker than water.” Uncle Jimmy would say that was his favorite argument of all-time. It was the punch in the nose the bully was afraid of. “I couldn’t agree more” was all he said, and then slammed the phone down on them.
As expected the phone rang just long enough for Uncle Jimmy’s Mom to relay the discussion to his Dad; He knew what was next on the list. His Father would now weigh in with the banishment threat. The voice indeed was that of his Father’s, the tone was indeed the tone he was all too familiar hearing when his sister was on the outs. “Let me make this Clear James, if you break from the family, you are no longer…” I always thought what Uncle Jimmy said next was the punch in the nose, and I suspect so did he. Once again before his Dad was able to finalize the banishment, Uncle Jimmy said “Let me make this clear” Slam! Now all he had to do is call Timmy’s Dad. He had always found him to reasonable. He had never agreed with his sister leaving the household with such a young son. Then again, it was his only nephew with no prospect of him ever having his own children. The problem was he could get Timmy’s Dad’s phone number from neither his sister nor his ex-parents.
Well, in life as so often is the case, whether it is God, Fate, Time or Karma, the powers that be need to become aligned. For the life of him, Uncle Jimmy couldn’t figure out how to get in touch with his only nephew. For God’s sake he was the Godfather…He was the Godfather; all he needed to do was call the Godmother. She would relate to the situation, besides it was in the bylaws to have their Godsons’ best interest at heart. So that’s what he did, and Timmy’s Aunt Linda could not have agreed more knowing her brother’s side of the story. Her advice was to call as soon as possible because they were going on a travel hockey weekend. Uncle Jimmy mentioned there was no hurry; he could surely wait till they got back. Aunt Linda explained her reasoning, “You don’t understand, I’m pretty sure they’re going to California. Isn’t that where you live?”
Indeed that’s where he lived. California was a big state, huge, but still, he would take the advice of calling right away. Hey you never know, imagine that. As it turned out the Hockey tournament was in the next town over. Uncle Jimmy would later say “hearing those words, I would never keep you from having a relationship with your Godson changed his life.” I gave him a hard time when he’d say that accusing him of being overly dramatic. In a very real way though we both knew the truth beyond the reality of what lied just below the surface. His life had been a torment, he was constantly avoiding what was fair, what was right, because the repercussions were too heinous to consider.
Uncle Jimmy and Tim’s dad became the best of friends. Jimmy stayed over Timmy’s house for extended week-ends at least every other month. The thing about him avoiding conflict because he was afraid of losing what he had, Family. As it turns out he didn’t lose family at all. He was welcomed for holidays, extended week-end, or just vacation time he had to use. He actually gained the family he never had, and felt no guilt for it. Uncle Jimmy died not too long ago. We all miss him dearly. He still is around though, as my wife said preparing for her trip to NY, “I got no socks, oh wait, here’s a pair, Uncle Jimmy’s.”
By far though, the greatest gift was the gift I received from my ex-wife, Timmy’s mom. She presented me with Jim's Veteran burial flag because she knew he found home. Its a big deal to veterans and typically goes to the next of kin. With her folks gone, she was next in line. Only she said “I think you should have this, he always felt you guys were his real family.” Needless to say it holds it's rightful place of honor atop the mantle of our home. Uncle Jimmy's Home!