Not a Mile Down the Road

sleepin-it-offMy most recent newspaper piece is David’s Uncle Ed – you’ll find it right up at the top where it says “This Week’s column” – and it occurred to me that maybe people would like to see what he looks like. Here he is on his honeymoon, pretending to be exhausted by his husbandly demands. He was 33 when Auntie Fran set her sights on him and she was 40 and a real ‘looker’ as they used to say.

Here she is seeming to point in merry fashion at the bed in the little New Hampshire cabin where they had their honeymoon:

Two people on their honeymoon have only each other to take pictures of so here’s Ed with the drinks at sundown and then savoring one of his first breakfasts as a married man.



They had 45 years together though for the last ten of them Fran was like a bird trapped in a cage: perplexed, sometimes cross and finally so resigned to the her state that she stopped talking altogether – even let the food you put in her mouth dribble right on out again the second you looked away.

Fran isn’t even a mile down the road now, over in Oak Grove, in the lot which was bought for David’s young dad, dead so tragically at just 45 and now also holding David’s mom his wife Ruthie so that Ruth and Francis Payne sleep together as they slept as children in the little house in Manchester, New Hampshire, two girls born when the century was in its teens.

Ed was born in 1920. He wrote poems in the War – also profiles essays and funny songs, all while stationed in the jungles of the South Pacific with the bodies rotting on the beach. Then he came home and took care of everyone: his darling Fran, his mom til she died in the bathtub, a heavy old lady weary with the years. He takes care of me now. though he thinks it’s the other way around.

Here he is two springs ago holding our newest family member. Not your wispy old man with a jawbone thin tin as an axe-blade. He’s as substantial as they come in every way. He will leave a very large void when at last he goes to join the Payne girls over in Oak Grove not even a mile down the road.


5 thoughts on “Not a Mile Down the Road

  1. Uncel Ed reminds me a bit of Fred Mertz! Nice looking man and I love how the baby looks so intently at him. I read something yesterday about babies at birth and a couple of days afterward looking like they have all the wisdom in the world. Could be with the intense stare they are trying to share that wisdom before getting on with the job of being babies and teaching us as they grow. Such a sweet way of writing about your loved ones. I like the way you express yourself. Love, A.

  2. Uncle Ed literally introduced me to the concept of self-health care. He personfied the concept of healthy diet. He was the first person I knew to read magazines about healthy living. When I ended up working as an ethnographer on federally funded research projects in San Francisco undertaken to assess various AIDS-prevention techniques, Ed didn’t shrink. He asked questions. Engaged me in long discussions. Once I became convinced that the most feasible approach to prevention was the most inclusive one: ranging from abstinence and monogamy to condom use and post-sex washing, Ed was the first to hear me out intelligently and suggest I was right. He had served in the Army during World War II, after all, by which time medics had long been instructing soldiers to avoid V.D. by washing involved body parts after sex. Although the child of immigrants from Armenia he was an American ahead of his time!

    1. he sure was – and IS in many ways… I think when the time comes he will model a new kind of leaving-the-stage too. We talk about final things a lot, he and I, with no morbidity. Even I (baby as I am!) am going to Mt. Auburn Cemetery next week for a tour for Dave and me. Why NOT spend eternity in a place famous for its birds? thanks for this Doc!

  3. Hi, reading your story about your uncle and family made me think, for some reason, of Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” so I reread it. I thought I was beyond such sentiment and nostalgia, but I’m not there yet. Sob, sob.

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