Even though he didn’t like it, I still think of him as Little Junie.
The juniors in our family are called Junie. So if you’re a third, well … Little Junie.
He is my cousin; my mother’s brother’s son. He was definitely different than a lot of the family in that he was outgoing and ambitious. Fashion conscious, too. A little flashy. There was some tension now and then, but that’s life and that’s family. In a way, I think he deserves a good word for being a family outlier — not just going with the flow. People who make their own way and buck tradition will invite tension and drama but they also tend to get things done and see the world in different ways.
Little Ju–, I mean, Oliver was living in Chicago and had four kids who I hadn’t seen in forever. Maybe never for the younger ones. He had been sick for a while — liver disease — and there was a lot of hospital stays and a long, slow decline. He was tired of fighting. Tired of doctors, treatments and hospitals.
Not easy for everyone to cope with his dying, but not the same sting as a sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one.
He was buried next to his father today. Near our grandfather and other family, too. In fact that’s where most of us will be. I may have stood on my grave there in Cedar Hill today (although I think I’d like to be a tree). We’ll all be in good company.
Oliver was six or seven years older than me. Three years older than my big sister, Tracey, and my cousin, Glend, who is and was more like a big brother.
We would go to Uncle Junie and Aunt Grace’s house for family get-togethers. The grownups would play Pinochle and we kids would go upstairs and play air hockey. I got the low down on all of the big kid talk. When I was in middle school they were in high school and Little Junie was graduating. It was an education. 🙂
It’s sad, though. That branch of the family has had its share of tragedy.
Little Junie — Oliver — was 47 and is survived by, as they say, a wife and four kids. His big sister, Sharon, was a nurse and died a long time ago (1980’s) of a blood clot, I think, when she was just 26 years old. Uncle Junie died in a car crash in — what was it — 1999? That means that Aunt Grace has seen both of her children die. If life were fair, things like that wouldn’t happen.
But it’s not fair. It’s life. And life goes on.
It’s a reminder to live. And to be open. And to love and respect. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Anything beyond now isn’t guaranteed, if you want to look at it that way. So there it is.
Journey well, cousin. Rest.