Thursday, February 04, 2016

A Tale of Three Uncles: the Rich, the Rascal, and the...

... schizophrenic?

I've been planning this post in my head for years, but I could never find the right "R" for the third uncle. Over a year ago, on November 3, 2014 I tentatively titled the post: "The Rich, the Rascal, and the Rebel, or 'A Tale of Three Uncles'" and wrote "I still haven't found [the right R], but Rebel will have to do for now. You see, my dad just told me that this uncle of mine is doing very poorly right now, so I wanted to write about him."

I never went on to write the post. Now I have to, but I'll say why later. I have more than three uncles (2 in my mom's side and 3 in my dad's, plus my aunts' husbands -- another long story), but these three stand out.

Most people have a rich uncle (don't they?) and mine is my mom's oldest brother (they are five siblings and my mom is the much younger "baby"). He is a handsome man (you can scroll down on this post to see him as a baby), who married really well into an entrepreneurial Italian-Brazilian family and became wealthy as a result. He also became more part of his wife's family than ours and my mom resents that.

She is also many years younger than him (15+ years), so they were never very close. He was always very nice to our family and let us use his beach house for free every summer (my parents still go there, but not every year anymore). We always saw him (sometimes only in church) when we visited my family's hometown (Curitiba) and in 2001 when we went to Brazil for my brother's wedding, K and caught a ride to Curitiba with him and his wife in their SUV and stayed at their apartment one night. My mom is always a bit upset with him because she wanted him to help financially other family members, particularly the children and grandchildren of their sister (second oldest), and he would always help begrudgingly only if she insisted.

I was happy to see this uncle and his wife in Texas last year. They had just done a cruise in Alaska with my in-laws who took a group with their tour company and I wasn't expecting to see them there. I think this uncle will turn 100 years old and still be in good health. He reminds me a bit of my grandpa, so I am always a bit moved to see him.

The "Rascal" is my mom's second brother, who also married an Italian-Brazilian wife! He was always very affectionate with my mom, so she was very fond of this brother. He was also kind of a rebel (he could have been both of those "Rs") and turned away from his dad's religious upbringing to marry the feistiest girl he could find. I say he's a "rascal" because we could never figure out if he had an actual job, and there were rumors that both him and his wife fooled around at various time, but he is doing well in his old age, still with his (feisty) wife. They have extremely successful children and grandchildren -- their oldest son is a doctor with a prestigious career who is also a professor at a medical school in addition to his practice. I haven't seen them in  over 20 years. :-(

My dad had three brothers, the oldest one got divorced over 40 years ago, never remarried, and now lives close to my parents. The one a bit younger than dad lives a few hours from us here in the U.S. and was left disabled by a benign brain tumor removal surgery he had back in 2009. The third one is my uncle Daniel who had schizophrenia, lived a very sad, troubled life, and died unexpectedly last Friday.

I mean, he hadn't been doing well since late 2014 (and much before that, frankly), but this is what happened...

... this uncle was very intelligent, but troubled. Unfortunately, mental illness runs in my dad's family and some siblings were more affected by it than others. My dad was always, ever since I remember, trying to help his younger brother out. I remember tio Daniel visiting us and I have some very good memories of those times -- he always would either bring or buy me and my brother presents -- toys. He bought me a large plastic doll once and I always thought of him when I played with it. I also remember how the way that he nervously moved his knees sideways as he was sitting on the couch talking to my dad made me feel uncomfortable. It was like a nervous tic and didn't seem normal to me.

He got married in the late 70s (against everyone's advice) and decided to become a policeman. He joined the police academy, passed the tests, and began to work. His wife had a baby, Rafael, and I remember a few visits to their apartment, getting to meet the new (and youngest) baby cousin. However, he drank a lot and was very unstable. His wife said he beat her and left him, moving away with the baby to her hometown. Then, my uncle ended up being discharged from the police (I don't remember if it was state or military police) with a disability pension -- one of the few positive points of his troubled life story. I remember quite a bit of tension whenever my dad's family discussed about him.

I don't know when exactly, but soon after, in the early 1980s, he went back to live in the small town in the North of Paraná state where they all had grown up. Many people in town knew him from babyhood (he may have been born there), and looked after him. After my grandfather died in 1978, the other seven siblings (my grandma had four girls & four boys) decided that they wouldn't sell one of two of their parents' houses in that small town so the house could be given to their troubled brother. My parents visited the former wife (then remarried) and her son a couple of times, but she and the boy wanted nothing to do with my uncle. She later died and my parents lost contact with the son. The step-dad actually told my parents that he probably wasn't my uncle's baby. Who knows?

I remember once, when I was 12-13 (?), that my dad needed to pick up this uncle to take him to the capital to go to the doctor and solve some problems with his pension and my brother and I went with him. It was very strange to hear our uncle talk about so many disparate things. I don't know if it was the last time I saw him, maybe it was.

There was a time when my aunt and her husband were helping care for him (taking him clothes, making sure he had access to his money, checking on the house) and my poor grandma, who died in 2008 would always be stressed about his well-being. Once in a while, when grandma wasn't bed-ridden yet, uncle Daniel would show up at grandma's house unannounced and she would be a bit disturbed (because he talked a lot and made up so many stories), so his sisters forbade him to come. My dad then took over caring for him and he would go every year, sometimes more than once, hiring people to help bring him food and look after him.

My uncle's health kept declining -- he also smoked a lot, having even set fire accidentally to his bed and house a couple of times -- and he lived in a filthy  house surrounded of junk (including old dilapidated cars that he'd buy) and he had lost his bank card and access to his pension. So finally dad had to take him to a judge and become his legal custodian, in charge of his bank accounts. The judge saw my uncle's condition and granted that, but the legal process was still ongoing.

(My dad was extremely stressed out about this whole process, because he thought that my uncle would make a scene at the judge -- he didn't want to feel controlled by anyone -- but tio Daniel didn't even realize what was happening).

Late last year, Daniel wasn't doing well and my dad decided to go see him after Christmas and try to bring him to a nursing facility in Curitiba (the capital). Fortunately he had the help of his "baby" sister and her husband, who live in Tennessee, but are paying an extended visit to Brazil now. They helped him convince Daniel to come and they had to take him straight to the hospital, because he was in bad shape, suffering from pneumonia. He was going to be discharged after four days, but the nursing home had no openings until last week on Monday (2/1), so he stayed in the hospital for a full week. Because he is older than 70, someone had to stay with him overnight, and they ended up paying for some nurses to stay because they were exhausted taking turns staying with him.

It was very hard on everyone because my uncle would become agitated and scream insults at them all, my dad wouldn't have been able to manage without his youngest sister, her husband and my cousin who is a dentist and dental school professor and helped get our uncle admitted and then kept at the Red Cross Hospital. So everyone was relieved when he finally entered the nursing home. They even traveled to the hometown to do some paperwork.

On Friday morning, when the news of his death reached my mom (he died overnight of heart failure), my dad was out without his cell phone, securing my uncle's health card (something like a Medicare card from the government). He got the card, but in the meantime his sister had already gotten another card, the one to go get his death certificate later. Dad called my mom from a payphone to ask where she wanted to go eat lunch and she told him to come immediately home (they were at my mom's sister home, the one who just lost her husband in August -- I never blogged that, will have to fix that, how sad!). So my mom told him when he got there that "It was all over" and he hugged her, cried and sobbed, saying:
I did all I could, I did all I could to help him!
Yes daddy, you did. Poor daddy. My mom said he was extremely stressed out about everything, so now he could finally be at peace.

My dad and his four sisters, three of which live in Curitiba, got together at the funeral home/crematorium. The one who hadn't been talking to the other sisters for years came and said that if they had called her to help in the hospital she would have helped. Three cousins also came. They said their goodbyes and he was cremated. My parents will do their best to notify his son and only heir that he can go and claim the property and any remaining benefits my uncle might pass on to him from his short-lived government job.

My uncle Daniel is the one standing on the left in this photo (my dad is on the far right, close to his dad, both wearing jackets, apparently, he was the favorite child):

Second from left with the white shirt (the two girls in the back worked for the family):
You're finally at rest, tio, and I'm so sorry that your life was so troubled.

1 comment:

What Now? said...

Oh dear, what a sad life he had.