I wrote this piece on January 22, 2015. I am sharing it again because of yesterday’s post, which reminded me of a 2018 post that was “fathered” by my homage to Carl. I’ll probably repost those 2018 posts later, just to preserve them. Carl was a wonderful man, and it was nice to remember how kind and generous he was, even until the end of his life. I’m grateful I was able to speak to him one last time in November 2014.
As I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook, which is my usual habit. My cousin, Lori, posted that her dad, my Uncle Carl, had passed away. I wasn’t surprised by the news. He was suffering from leukemia and my mom told me a couple of days ago that Carl was on hospice and had been told there was nothing more to be done.
Carl was one of my dad’s four brothers, younger by about seven years. He was a great dancer, very friendly, loving, and warm. For many years, he worked in Natural Bridge, Virginia, running all the tourist attractions. Later, he worked in Luray. Carl had a son and a daughter, eleven years apart in age. He also had five grandchildren, three of whom are now grown and two that are still very young.
Over Thanksgiving in 2014, I sat down with Carl and we had a long talk. One of my other uncles, my aunt’s husband, Bill, interrupted us briefly to comment on a “houseguest” Carl was hosting, a young guy with serious OCD issues who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. The guy couldn’t live with his girlfriend because she was getting welfare and it was against the rules for her to co-habitate. Uncle Bill said, “Carl, that guy at your house is a POW.” I looked up at him questioningly and he clarified, “Piece of work.”
Carl then started telling me about this young guy who had moved into a spare apartment on his property. He didn’t pay rent and couldn’t keep a job. Carl told me his wife, Betty, could barely stand to be around him. But Carl was determined to help this young fellow. He did all he could to try to hook him up with people who could help him… ministers and social workers, even though the guy wasn’t interested in that kind of help. He let him live in the apartment, even though the guy didn’t pay rent. Carl said the guy did pay for his electric bills and food, at least.
As Carl was telling me about his “guest”, he focused on the positive, saying that the apartment was kept immaculately clean, thanks to the guy’s issues with obsessive compulsive disorder. He liked having the apartment lived in rather than sitting empty. If no one lived there, he still wouldn’t be getting any money for the place.
I got the feeling that Carl just wanted to be kind and helpful, even though many people told him that he was being used and was enabling his houseguest’s irresponsible behavior. Many people told him to toss the POW out on his ass. But Carl wouldn’t do it. He wanted to be a positive force in the young guy’s life.
I have a feeling that Carl’s “POW” is about to lose his free ride. My Aunt Betty has been ill with Alzheimer’s Disease and Carl had been taking care of her. When we saw each other at Thanksgiving time, Carl told me that his wife’s illness was getting worse and they often had the same conversations repeatedly because she would forget. Betty can’t live by herself, so arrangements will no doubt have to be made. That will likely mean that Carl’s POW friend will need to move on. ETA: Aunt Betty passed in October 2018.
I will miss my Uncle Carl. He was a very loving and decent person. He loved his family very much and was always smiling and laughing. He was deeply caring and empathetic, yet he had a fun loving side, too. I wish I had access to my wedding photos. I have a hilarious picture of him at my wedding with a red rose between his teeth and a big toothy grin. Every time I saw Carl, he was happy to see me. He always gave me big bear hugs and he loved to just sit and talk and tell stories. He told a funny story at my dad’s memorial just two months ago. I will always treasure that memory and am grateful that he was able to spend his last holidays with his loved ones instead of in a hospital room.
I am not a very religious person, but I picture my dad up in heaven, waiting to show Carl the way to the rest of his loved ones who passed before him. Four of Granny’s nine children have gone home now.
The featured photo is of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House in Scotland. Below is what I wrote about the photo in my original post about Carl’s death.
This is a picture of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Bill and I visited there in 2012. We had a wonderful little Scottish lady giving us a tour and she was a great storyteller. She told us about how the house was used as a Naval hospital during World War I. As she was telling us about the house under this beautiful ceiling, she talked about sick and injured military men, waking up to see that ceiling. She said, in her delightful Scottish brogue, “One look at that and you would surely think you’d crossed the bar!” I like to think that Carl and my dad both saw something amazing as they slipped away beyond the bar… Maybe they saw something even more amazing than the ceiling at Mount Stuart…