WToT4 and Uncle Mike

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Silver Bullet Comic’s All The Rage claims Western Tales of Terror #4 has a “Has A 'Per Un Pugno Di Dollari' Factor of Eight Out of Ten”. Follow the link for a five page preview of the story by Joshua Hale Fialkov with pencils by Mark Dos Santos and grays by Marlena Hall. Western Tales #4 will be in stores in three weeks and also features stories from Stuart Moore, Saul Colt and Jon Hook with art by Joseph Bergin III, Jason Copland and Jared Bivens. If you’re retailer didn’t order it due to a protein deficiency or a couple of missing chromosomes, drop this order form off to him today. Do it. Do it.

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Continuing the week of stories about my momma's family...

When my cousin John came back from Desert Storm he visited our house first. Him and my mom were always close and I remember answering the door and seeing him standing there in full desert fatigue, carrying a duffle bag, smile stretched across his face. He came upstairs and we shat the shit for a bit. He was a printer in the army, making propaganda pamphlets that were dropped on the Iraqis, and he gave me a whole bunch of them.

Funny story: of the twenty or so pamphlets he gave me two of them were repeated but on a heavy cardboard stock. I asked him why; apparently those were the original printing but when dropped out of planes they didn’t separate. Instead they fell to the ground like bricks, giving new meaning to the “surrender or die” propaganda philosophy.

Anyway, John wanted to call Uncle Mike almost immediately so we did. Uncle Mike came over, no idea John was home. We set up my dads video camera so that it was hooked up to the TV, streaming the feed, and aimed at John who was sitting on our couch, back towards were Uncle Mike would enter the apartment. Uncle Mike comes in, says his hellos, notices the back of John’s head, and comes in to see who’s sitting on the couch, notices the TV and freaks out.

Laughing, crying, hugging – my Uncle Mike was a big dude; a hug from him was a bear hug every time. And he was picking John off the ground and swinging him around. My Uncle Mike was the happy-go-lucky darling of the family and times like this, you catch him in his raw form; it was inspiring to see him like that. Later that day I asked him to be my sponsor for confirmation (a big deal for us catholic types). I didn’t plan on asking him but I was just caught up in the moment, Uncle Mike was a great guy and you just saw it on that day.

The next day I regretted my decision. Uncle Chris (on my pop’s side) had more money. I figured he could get me a better present or something. I asked my mom if I could change my mind and she said that there was no-way in hell. Reluctantly, I decided to stick with Uncle Mike.

We never really bonded before so he decided he wanted to take me out. We went to get White Castle first, pretty standard bonding experience, and then took his beat-up ‘ole station wagon down to Melody Lanes to do some bowling. He was trying to prove how hip he was and popped a tape into the deck that had JAMBONEY (little help here, can't find the actual name of the song or how to spell "jamboney") on it, asked me if I liked that song. I pretended to like it.

We had a good time that night and the subsequent bonding outings. Come confirmation time he showed up to the house with a big bandage over his hand. I asked him if he was hurt and he explained that he wanted to cover up his spider-tattoo since that’s the hand he needed to put on my shoulder. And that was Uncle Mike in a nutshell – awkward and always aiming to please.

Confirmation came and went and in the months that followed we got closer and closer.

That Christmas we went to my Aunt Jackie’s house. Usual good time had by all – good food, entertainment, and hijinx. As the night started coming to a close, my Aunt’s husband pulled my father to the side and told him that Uncle Mike was admitted to the hospital earlier that day. Uncle Mike loved his Budweiser and it caught up to him – his liver had failed.

My father was distraught, he told my mother. My mother instantly asked why they’re being told this now, so late at night. He told us that he thought it was best we enjoyed Christmas together without worrying, as a family. Uncle Mike would have wanted it that way.

My family piles into our car and heads back to Brooklyn without saying another word to my Aunt Jackie and her family – we actually didn’t say a word to any of them for some time after that.

By the time we get to the hospital Uncle Mike is in a coma. His girlfriend is there, alone. She was there all day with him as he slowly lost consciousness. Alone.

My Uncle Mike slipped into a coma thinking no one in the family even cared enough to come see him except for his girlfriend. Two days later he died. If we’d showed up a couple of hours earlier we would’ve been there for his last conscious thought, he would have known we cared. We never got to say goodbye.

I don’t give a fuck what you say your fear is. Sharks, buried alive, whatever. Worst fucking way to die is realizing nobody gives a shit. And that’s how my Uncle Mike died.

He couldn’t have been more wrong. Over the months leading up to his death I grew so close to him. I was honored to have him as my sponsor and I know I made the right choice – Uncle Mike would have been there for me no-matter what. Rich Uncle Chris, well, he was having problems back then. Uncle Mike was just raw goodness. And one of his last conscious thoughts was undoubtedly “why doesn’t my family care.”

The man deserved better.

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