“There’s a hole in my head!” Dad groused, fingering his newly-stitchless scalp. “Why did Hinckley leave a hole in my head?” I examined Dad’s new scar, which curved over eight inches of wispy-haired scalp. The scar centered on a remaining scab, where the initial cancer had been scooped deeply out. I reassured him that his head looked fine, that there was no open wound, that what he felt as a hole was just a scab. “Why didn’t he stitch the skin together so there isn’t a hole in my head?” When the scab falls out, I suggested, I was sure he would see how neatly sutured the whole incision was. “But there’s a hole in my head.” Mom scowled and rolled her eyes, and I let the matter go. I would not be able convince him there was not a hole in his head, and did not want to argue. Maybe the surgeon did leave a hole in Dad’s head—what could I do about it other than watch for both healing and infection? After work the next day, Mom and Dad broke the news that uncle Craig had died, in his sleep, after living two years with cancer. His generation’s deaths had begun with Dad’s sister, Louise, of a brain tumor, and Mom’s brother-in-law, Wayne, of a brain tumor, and Mom’s brother, John, of Type 1 diabetes. And now Craig, and another ordeal of viewing and funeral and interment and sad greetings of distant family, and grief. I asked my therapist why I felt nothing, not even numbness, just an emptiness. She assured me I would grieve in my own time and in my own way, and that was okay. I wondered if I might be living in an extended state of grief—grief over deaths not yet come to pass, but imminent. She assured me that pre-emptive grief, or anticipatory grief, is a very real thing—we grieve not only for what has passed but for what is still to come. She encouraged me to just be with my grief, without judgment, and allow it to be what it needs to be, for me. Uncle Craig’s pride and joy (aside from his wife and six sons) was his restored 1920 Model-T, which he displayed in his shop, which he showed to my children, which they sat in, marveling, which he drove in parades and slow Model-T cross-country caravans, which he drove around the neighborhood, both recently and in 1966, when I sat in the back seat, two years old, with my mother, her long straight hair in a pony tail, cat-eye glasses on her nose, a smile on her face. We would go to the viewing and the funeral, of course. Mom and Dad had decided everything between them, while I was at work, so I had no opportunity to help them examine their options. My attempts now to discuss options brought only stress and anxiety and argument. We will not attend the viewing tonight. We will attend the viewing and funeral tomorrow, a three-hour ordeal that will involve wheelchairs and small bathrooms and hunger and thirst and exhaustion. We will not attend the interment. I’m sure Mom’s and Dad’s plan is best. I once explained to an employee how his predetermination of a single right solution had precluded our opportunity to examine together the spectrum of options. He perceived any discussion of alternatives, even with a supportive boss, as distressing: a threat, or a criticism. But that was twenty years ago. Today, Mom hobbled to my home office and explained she wanted to drive to the post office to mail a college graduation card to grandson Todd, but she had found her car door not fully closed, and her battery was dead. I offered her my car, the same make and similar model. “Do you trust me?” she asked, surprised. Handing her the keys, I felt a quick moment of panic—what if she wrecked my car and was hurt—my car is dirty and scratched and rickety—shouldn’t I just drop everything and jump the battery? I helped her adjust the driver seat and watched her drive carefully away, hoping she would return.
Pictured above: Uncle Craig in his partially restored Model-T, with Mom and baby Yours Truly, in 1965.
Uncle Craig and Aunt Karen cruising in the fully-restored Model-T, with family, circa 2003.
Hannah sitting in back of Uncle Craig’s Model-T, in 2016.
Uncle Craig teaching Hyrum how to drive, in 2016.
Uncle Craig’s fully-restored Model-T pick-up truck.
Roger, the younger (much, much, younger) version of me rode in the rumble seat of the Model T. Thanks for the memories.
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We have something else in common! Those old cars are so fun. My uncle used all authentic parts in his restoration, cleaning and painting each nut and bolt. Even the wood spokes are vintage. He found the period license plate in a junkyard for a mere $200! Thanks for saying hi.
I spent hours and hours listening to CDs of Craig reading Ralph Moody’s books. He recorded all 8 books for his grandkids and he was kind enough to make copies for us too.
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I had forgotten!❤
Nice car! It’s amazing they can keep them running.
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