The priest came to give him his last rights. He left amid tears, and five minutes later, Glen was gone.
Uncle Glen. To about 70 people in this area, those two words bring a smile to their faces. He was going to be 80 next month. He lived a tough life. Let’s just say his lungs and liver probably deserve to be in some kind of Hall of Fame. He was a pretty fun dude. Funny. Gruff, but kind. Always with a joke. Worked hard right up until a couple months ago. He wasn’t the first in the family to go. We lost Roger, I don’t remember how. Then Jimmy suffered too long thru ALS. And then George to cancer, and most recently the lovable funny-man Hank succumbed to Alzheimer’s. That’s a lot of brothers, you may think.
You’d be wrong.
Roger, Jimmy, George, Hank and now Glen. Five of the sixteen kids that made up my Dad’s family. That’s not a typo. Eleven brothers and five sisters were born to Henry and Naomi Beesmer over the course of 20 years, ending in the late 40′s. This is technically my “step-family” – but my mother married into the family when I was less than 3, so I consider them my family – and they took me in, of course.
If a couple had 16 kids today, and lived in a broken down house that LITERALLY had a creek running UNDER the foundation, it would be a reality show. But this was real life for my Dad’s family. The statistics of what my grandmother’s uterus accomplished are more or less amazing. No twins. 16 kids in 19 years. We’ve studied it closely and there really was only one period of time where there could have possibly been a miscarriage. She pumped out kids one right after the other. For 6 years in a row she had a kid in February – and then the seventh year a kid on March 1st. And she basically raised them herself – though I’m pretty certain there was never a time when all 16 were home at once.
And the stories. As you can imagine the stories are endless and funny. They were poor but proud. You didn’t mess with them, I’m pretty sure of that. Let’s just say that if you lived in the area back in the 50s and 60s, you’d be a fool to pick a fight with someone in school or a bar – cause that someone may have 10 brothers – none of whom were exactly scrawny. I’ve heard of poor drunk fools being thrown clear over cars in the parking lot of “The Retreat” and other watering holes. Good bunch of people though. Many of them served their country in Korea or Vietnam – all grew up to have respectable careers and families – and to the best of my knowledge none were ever in any kind of trouble. Which is truly a testament to Naomi, as their father died quiet early. Child #16 was still in-utero when he passed.
But I digress. This is about Glen. Good ol’ Uncle Glen. We used to hang out a lot with Glen and his family. I can remember many camping trips with Glen, Jimmy, and maybe a couple others – sitting around the campfire, laughing at their drunken antics. One time Glen and Jimmy’s wife Joan were running around in a thunder storm splashing in puddles like a couple of 8 year olds. They might have been drunk. Glen’s wife, Pat yelled out from their camper that Glen better get his ass inside before he gets hit by lightning. (note – the language in this story may have been cleaned up a bit). Glen responded by yelling: “If I die, just stick a hambone up my ass and let the dogs drag me away” – and continued splashing away.
My Dad’s one of the youngest – only one brother and a sister are younger. And it kills me to watch him as his family slowly reaches that age where they start to battle things like cancer, Alzheimer’s and age. It takes a toll on him as he’s always been fairly close to most of them, and always does whatever he can to help. So this post is for you Dad. We’re all here for you, but you knew that already.
So anyway – the priest came and did what he needed to do, and then Glen left us. A little while later someone asked Aunt Pat if any arrangements had been made – since of course we knew this time had been coming for a while. “No” she said without hesitation… “we’re going to stick a hambone up his ass and let the dogs drag him away”
Goodbye Uncle Glen. You’re legacy is safe with us.