Thursday, February 03, 2005
My Dad's younger brother, the subject of two previous posts, has led a wild life. As evident in my writing he has been a ladies man, alcoholic and recreational drug user for much of his life. I began telling the story of my time working for him because he was fresh on my mind. You see he had been hospitalized last week for some complications resulting from an accident he had eight years ago. I assumed his visit in the hospital was fairly routine so I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and share some funny or titillating tales from the past. Today I believe yesterday's post about the "family business" will be the last.
Throughout his adult life Hank has loved and owned horses. He always fancied himself a cowboy. He wore boots, the big belt buckles and a hat most everyday. I remember him claiming the Toby Keith tune, "I Should've Been A Cowboy", was his theme song. One mid summer day eight years ago Hank was drinking heavily and ridding horses with a friend. He took his mustang down a hill at a wide open gallop. The horse tripped over a rock or root in the path and threw my uncle, then fell on top of him. Man and beast continued to slide down the hill slamming into a tree at was supposed about 30 mph. It ended there, against a tree with the horse on him. It was assumed this would be the end of my uncle. The family flocked to Virginia to attend what we thought would be his funeral. I was living in South Florida at the time and I made the trip also expecting to say my goodbyes to this man who had thought me much, good and bad.
But Hank recovered, although not easily. He had crushed almost every bone in his body. They had to remove much of his stomach and intestines as well as his spleen. For a couple years he lived with a colostomy bag attached to his side, but he eventually rebounded. In a way the accident was good. Hank stopped much of the hard living he had enjoyed. He grew closer to his wife and sons and stopped the drugs and skirt chasing. He still drank a little, smoked cigarettes and cussed like a sailor, but you could tell he was a different man.
I saw Hank last on July 4th of this past year. My parents hosted a family reunion at their home in Tennessee and most of my Dad's side of the family attended. We had a great couple days visiting with each other, swimming and eating good food. This was the first time Susan had met any of my extended family. We all sat out around my parents pool or on the screened in back porch talking for hours. Hank would sit there shirtless, proudly displaying the scars on his stomach from all the operations he had had. It was a good time, remembering and catching up with family you don't see very often.
As I mentioned above Hank has been in the hospital for days now. About twenty minutes ago I received a call from my Mother. Hank has cancer, she tells me. The cancer is in his intestines, pancreas and lymph glands. Hank has said previously he will not take chemo. The outlook is not a good one. It is expected he will not live a year. He is one of three brothers my Father has. When my Dad was sixteen his Mother died of cancer and his Father married a seventeen year old woman and moved from their hometown to another city. My Dad met my Mother in High School, little Chuck was conceived, and they married at seventeen. He has always been very close with his brothers and is obviously taking this very hard. I too feel terrible. During much of my younger years Hank was in the Army and stationed around the world. I never really got to know him that well until I was in my teens. He was a pilot and he always promised to give me flying lessons, although we never did get around to it. It wasn't until my mid twenties, when I worked for him in his bar, that I really got to know him. If I were to continue to share these stories from my time with him at the bar I fear that I would do more to paint him in a negative light. Out of respect for him I have decided not to. I hope you can understand.
Please keep my uncle and our family in your thoughts and prayers.