mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

Aunt Lorraine & Uncle Jack: Angels in An Adolescent Moment

afternoon at CastlewoodI'm so sad to hear that my Aunt Lorraine died. She was a genuinely nice person, always attentive to others. Just last Christmas, when she saw that I was working on more recent family history, she raided her photo album and gave me four pictures to scan for my virtual family album. 

About 10 years ago I was working with a team on a particularly tough problem and, as loosening up exercise, we decided to each talk about about an episode in our childhood when an adult was particularly kind to us. This story immediately came to mind:

I was in seventh grade and in the color guard of our school drum and bugle corps. I was out front, carrying the American flag.

We had a gig to do the halftime show at an evening soccer game at Public School Stadium. As we started, a wind storm blew up. In some crazed show-must-go-on attitude, we marched on. The flag whipped around in my arms and took all my 13-year-old strength to hold it. The wind picked up. On we marched. Two men ran out and helped the two flag bearers behind me. Those kids were smaller than I was. I waited for someone to help me and no one did. Apparently, I looked like I was okay. On we marched. On we marched.

Finally, our show was over and we retreated under the stands, dumped our equipment and began organizing for the bus ride home. I was a wreck. I had marched what felt like a thousand formations around that stupid field and kept my flag aloft . My arms were still quivering. No one cared. No one said, "Great job." No one said, "Are you okay?" No one said, "Gee, we should have helped you too." I tried to tell one of my friends what I'd just gone through, but the words wouldn't come out of my mouth. I was invisible -- one of those terrible, lonely moments of youth when you are too old to be coddled but not ready to be an adult.

I turned around and saw Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Jack. I hadn't known they were at the game. I didn't know why they came inside. All I knew was that angels had come for me. I threw myself into my aunt's arms and sobbed my heart out and she wrapped her arms around me and understood perfectly. Unconditional love.

Funny how incidents like that stick with you forever. It was a dramatic moment to me, but it is also an apt symbol of who my Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Jack were. Along with my parents, they were constants in my childhood -- unfailingly kind, sweet of spirit, and the sort of trustworthy adults every kid should be surrounded by. The kind of people who bring light into a dark world.

My hugs today to their five kids -- Kathie, Jackie, Judy, Michael, and Linda -- and all the family members who will miss her so.


Photo: about 1954. Clockwise from the top left: my cousin Jackie, Uncle Jack, my dad, Aunt Lorraine, and my cousin Judy.


My cousin Kathie sent me this recently, so today I'm sending it back to her:

I often think that people we have loved,
And who have loved us,
Not only make us more human,
But they become a part of us.
And we carry them around all the time,
Whether we see them or not...
And in some ways, we are a sum total
Of those who have loved us
And those we have given ourselves to.


Uncle Jack and Aunt Lorraine were responsible for my parents getting together, but that's another story.