Riposa In Pace, Zio
I know you were probably expecting a honeymoon post. I was too, and trust me, they are coming. A whole bunch of them. But I have to do something else first.
Right before we left, I got a call that my Uncle Ralph had passed away.
He was really my Great Uncle, but he felt like such a more immediate part of the family that we never called him that. He was always the first to call you on your birthday. His was the first card you got for a holiday. He was always happy, and he always enjoyed his life despite his quickly growing list of health complications.
He was an Army Ranger, and after the Korean War he studied music and focused on opera. He was a member of The Godfathers for a number of years (a music group), specializing in Italian songs and was actually well known and recognized in several areas of Italy. He was on Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest way back in the day. Most of his recording shave been taken off of YouTube in the last few years, but you can still find a few. He was still doing events around New York, and would always bring his guitar to family picnics and gatherings to serenade us all.
He lived off in New York, so none of us got to see him as much as we would like. We were so excited to be able to see him for the wedding, but in the few weeks leading up to it he had a pretty serious complication from one of his health issues and was labelled unfit to fly. We were bummed, and he was really upset about it, but I promised him we’d see him this summer, and that made him feel better.
He was 85, so it’s not like this was completely out of left field, but it was very unexpected. He had dinner with some friends one night, and everything was fine. Two days later he was supposed to meet someone else for breakfast. When he didn’t show at the restaurant, they went to check on him. The best anyone is able to tell at this point is that he apparently suffered a massive heart attack while either getting ready for bed the night before or getting up in the morning.
I can’t help but feel terribly guilty. I hadn’t seen him in 5 years. It just never worked out between his health and schedule and our schedules and the sheer distance. Geoff and I talked about doing a road-trip this summer as our mini-moon down the east coast to see him on top of other family we both have along that route, but everything just felt so busy that we decided it’d be best to just do it this next summer. I couldn’t have known this would happen, but I sure feel silly now in hindsight for just expecting that it wouldn’t. I feel awful, and it’s being compounded by the fear that he was in pain when he passed. He chose to live alone like he did and where he did, but the idea that he was alone and in pain and that I was “too busy” this summer to actually get out there to see him is just killing me.
It’s irrational. I know it is. No one could do anything. Seeing him would not have prevented this. And with the possible exception of that moment, he wasn’t in pain. He lived a full life. He was with friends. It may have been unexpected, but he was not the kind of guy who would want to know that was coming. I can only be thankful that he was in my life at all and pray he’s found himself a guitar in heaven. Many of his friends and family have gone before him, so I’m sure he is in good company.
Goodbye Uncle Ralph. I love you, and you will be greatly missed.