Sunday, May 29, 2016

A shock

I got a call from my brother Tom early evening yesterday. He lives near Pittsburgh. He said he had gotten a phone call from Texas. I understood this to be a call from someone in Tim's family in Austin. Tom and Tim are twins. Tim had taken in Mom after Dad's memorial service last October and about six weeks ago he took Mom to live in a care facility. So, of course, I thought a situation with Mom had come up.

Tom went on. Tim had been mowing grass. He had a heart attack. He died.

The phone call from Texas had been from his wife Kathy, who was barely holding together, asking Tom to notify the rest of the family. Kathy hadn't yet told many of her own children because they were at Saturday evening Mass.

Yes, this was a shock. I couldn't get much further than saying, "Wow."

Tim has had a few episodes with heart troubles, some requiring hospitalization. But there had been nothing recently. I'm pretty sure those troubles were not heart attacks. When I saw him less than two months ago he didn't show signs of illness or weakness. When I talked to him last Wednesday there was no talk of not feeling well.

The rest of this post will be about Tim, his family, and my relationship to them. It wasn't a warm and smooth relationship, so this isn't really a tribute.

Tom and Tim were born in 1953, about 19 months after Mom and Dad were married. They are the oldest of us siblings. At the time of their birth Dad was in the midst of earning his Master of Dairy Science at the University of Illinois.

The six of us were born within 7 1/2 years. There are stories of five of us coming down with chicken pox at the same time. When we were still young Tim was usually our babysitter when Mom and Dad went out for the evening.

In 1964 we moved to Michigan when Dad's job with IBM transferred him. Yes, quite a switch from dairy science. In high school Tim was a member of the concert choir and of the select singers who tended to perform more popular tunes. Both Tom and Tom graduated in the top ten of their class of about 400 students.

In high school Tim fell in love with Kathy. There was one minor problem – Kathy is from a Catholic family and we're not. Before the wedding in 1974 Tim officially converted to Catholicism. Kathy joined Tim at Michigan State University and the first of their 10 children was born before Tim graduated.

Tim got a job in the auto industry doing computer work (several of us followed Dad's path) and the growing family settled into the town where we grew up.

Though we aunts and uncles enjoyed being around the kids there was friction. Kathy is very strong in her beliefs and could go into a rant if she disagreed with something we said. The rest of us quickly figured out that there were certain topics one didn't discuss in her presence. The top of the list was politics. We're progressive, she's conservative.

In the early 1980s, when Tim had four children, I figured out that I am gay. Yeah, it took a while. I was afraid to tell anyone in the family because I was sure the news would get to Kathy and she would ban me from seeing her children, even though a gay man is rarely a pedophile.

By 2000 a couple if his children had now grown and found jobs in and around Austin. Kathy's parents, brother, and sister had also moved to the area. So that year Tim and family moved. By that time Kathy was pregnant with the last one. The youngest son is now 15, the oldest is 40. That 25 year span means Tim has two grandsons older than his youngest son. Kathy and a daughter-in-law were pregnant at the same time. There are currently 29 grandchildren, with another announced for next November.

With Tim and Kathy out of state I felt much more free. Over the next few years I came out to Dad (who told Mom) and my sisters and other brothers. I never told Tim. He never asked. Along the way I found my sister Laney had a girlfriend, not just a roommate. Laney and Anners were finally married last September.

Laney and Tim did not get along. He wanted to rescue her from her "sin." She did not want to be rescued. All invitations to family weddings were addressed only to Laney. She refused to go. Later she told me that Tim had invited her to live among them in Texas where she would be surrounded with loving family. Anners, of course, wasn't invited. Laney had a few choice words to say to that.

After 2000, and especially in 2004, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church and the politics of the time were decidedly ant-gay (see the Michigan Marriage Protection Amendment passed that year). I was feeling attacked. The general societal anti-gay pronouncements were also getting loud. I was and continue to be a member of the United Methodist Church (though after General Conference this month I'm more inclined to say I'm a member of a particular congregation and the denomination can go …). But I'm not a member of the Catholic Church and decided I would only set foot in one for a wedding, a funeral (which I didn't expect to do for 20 years), or if I was performing a concert. I suppose Tim was resigned to me refusing to attend a service with them. I would seek out a progressive UMC church instead. In spite of that decision I did attend a service when I was in Austin two months ago to gauge how Mom felt in that setting – she was more interested in family around her than the flavor of the service.

Tim and Kathy are the reason why I haven't associated my name with this blog. In the 7 1/2 years of writing I have remained anonymous. I didn't want Tim's family to do a search on my name and come across this blog with a definitely gay point of view. Even with Tim gone I'm not ready to announce myself. I suppose that is also one reason (of many) why I've avoided Facebook. I wouldn't have been able to keep my gay side hidden from Tim's family.

There have been times where I've wondered what would happen if Tim and Kathy found out. How willing would I be to drop them from my life? When I'm with them I'm never truly myself. I concluded that I'm not ready to let go, even if the relationship is dictated according to their terms. Even so, I tend to see my nieces and nephews only every 2-3 years (2015-2016 being an exception), so there isn't a whole lot of relationship there. But if the bond were severed I would miss them.

Tim did not sound like he was close to retirement, especially with one son in college and another starting in a couple years. I dealt with Dad's finances intensely for several months. I had the advantage that Dad's final illness gave him time to tell me the basics. Tim didn't. I've been wondering if Kathy knows about Tim's finances – bank accounts, investment accounts, possible pensions, life insurance policies, will, etc. Mom knew nothing of Dad's finances, even before Alzheimer's began to steal her memory.

Tim and Kathy have been the focus of Mom's care. Tim was the one who seemed to organize which of his sons visited Mom on which day. Tim had chosen a facility that was within five miles of four sons. Will Kathy take over, or will one of the sons?

Tim, even though our relationship played by your rules, I will miss you. I grieve you died too soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment