“Please, will you crack the nut with your hand again?” I remember the day vividly, we stood on the front porch at my childhood home. A warm day, I can’t remember if it was spring or summer, I want to say summer, I was nine or so. He always cracked walnuts with his hands, no use of a nut cracker. We always thought it was a hero’s trait. Having Tio (Uncle in Spanish) Paul around was always great. Tio Paul lived with his parents in their Chicago home. He lived in the basement and had his full set up down there. He loved to exercise and enjoyed being single. When we visited our grandparents home, we were always so excited to see him. He was like a kid to us and let us be kids. The youngest of three. My Dad and his brother are older, they are fraternal twins. Sunday get together, family outings, time spent together, it was always so fun. Tio Paul had a drive for adventure and bought himself a motorcycle. He enjoyed it and got in trouble with it. He ended up in a coma and luckily came out of it. What a scary time. That motorcycle was gone, he needed a new one. He got it. The city of Chicago can be a rough place and a place of envy and danger, like many other places, I am sure. The whole story I am not sure of, though Uncle Paul ended up in a bad place again. This time in a bike theft of sorts. Tio Paul’s motorcycle was stolen from him and those who stole it left him beat up. That second time was not a charm for him. He ended up in a coma again and when he woke up, brain damage was the diagnosis. He was never the same again. His life changed dramatically and he never knew life or the people in his life the way he had before. Close to being married before the accident, after the accident, his fiance was not able to stick around. Sad, though who was to blame her. Mary, she was such a great lady. So much happiness. Time passed, we all hoped–especially grandma and grandpa–for a full recovery and that Tio Paul would be back to himself. That was nearly 25 years ago. Today, after 25 years, I received the news of Tio Paul’s passing. Within those 25 years, Dad and Mom tried to be supportive of his new circumstances. It was hard to understand. On visits, there would be bursts of outrage, screaming, grunting. He no longer could speak in a way that could be understood. We tried to be understanding and sympathetic. A last visit before Tio Paul was admitted to the VA hospital, he scared all of us. He went on an attack with no control. He would get angry. He began lashing out at my grandpa and grandma. They were not able to take care of him on their own anymore. The VA Hospital was his new home. Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Javier were diligent in their visits to see him and spend time with him. A young kid I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. I think my Dad thought it best we go on with our lives. As an adult, I wish I could have done something to bring back the Uncle I knew, spent time with and had a great relationship with. Many times through the 25 years, I spent thinking about my Uncle the life he could have had and hoped that some miraculous occurrence would happen. That he would be cured and back. It never happened. A few nights ago, I dreamed of my Tio Paul. The next morning I woke up and did not understand what I had dreamed about. Almost a life flash scene from my time spent with my Uncle during the time we had together. I was scared at first, like when I saw him after his coma. I was scared he was still hurt, that he would burst into an outrage. Then, he began to talk to me, like he did before his accident. The fear was gone and I was happy to have spent the time with him. “You know what’s crazy Mom, I had a dream about Tio Paul three or four nights ago, it was strange.” She told me, “Tio Paul died three or four nights ago.” “Huh, I thought he died today.” “No. She Said.” A coincidence? I am not sure, though I know that I was able to spend time with my Uncle as he departed to a better place and left his suffering of 25 years. He was happy.
Picture from healthfitnessrevolution.com