April 9, 2009
70th Carnival of Genealogy: Uncle of the Soul
This post is about my Uncle Jimmy. He’s the son of the grandmother that I wrote about for the previous Carnival, one of the twin boys that she raised singly as a divorcee at a time where it was highly frowned upon. The other boy, obviously was my father.
They were both born in 1936. Granny always said that she could never tell the two of them apart, but in pictures, I can always tell through the smile. Uncle Jimmy always seemed to be the quieter, more sensitive one of the two. He is the artist, the musician, the religious one. He feels with his soul, whereas my dad was like me, he needed things proven to him in tangible results and facts.
Granny saw his talent with music, and although I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, or cheap, she hired someone to give him private lessons. I wish I could remember who he said it was, he’s mentioned it so many times, but its slipped my mind. He would play at various venues during high school, college, elsewhere. He went to St. Stanislaus High School, a boarding school at the time in Mississippi. During a tumultuous adolescence, Granny sent him there to straighten him out. I don’t remember where she sent my father, but she straightened him out too.
After high school, I believe he went to Loyola University in New Orleans. After that, he went (and graduated) from Juilliard School of Music. From there, he was hired by various symphonies as a clarentist throughout the United States. Of course, he knew how to play every other instrument and would get paid time and a half every time he had to play one of the instruments other than his primary one, the clarinet. It was during this time that the love of his life happened. Her name was Amy, she was from a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, and she played flute in the symphony. They dated, they got engaged. And then they couldn’t find a symphony to take both of them at once. Its so sad to think that they would seperate for that reason, but they did. It always saddens me to think of that. He never married, not even sure if he ever dated anyone after her. I always had a secret hope to find her one day, or at least learn her story. To at least tell him what happened to her after they parted ways.
Somewhere along the line, he’s done other things with his life. He tried to join the Franciscan Order, however, he couldn’t take the vow of obedience. In his own words, he couldn’t blindly follow where someone led, or told him to go. I suppose I get my questioning attitude from him.
One of the stories he told me was one of when he was in the Army National Guard during the integration movement in the 1960s. Typically, he was a musician within the Guard, as he said, they were the last line of defense to the officers if in battle. I always wondered if they would beat the enemy back with their instruments, bad music, or actually use militaristic weapons (although what could be more militaristic than a badly played instrument? lol).
Somewhere along the line, he went back to school, back to Loyola University and became a music teacher. He taught, he volunteered in the barrios of Texas in VESS, helped in the local government. Eventually in the late 1970s he wandered back to New Orleans, where he was a teacher again in the Archdiocesan Band Program for New Orleans.
One day, his twin and his wife visited Granny and him with me, their newborn daughter. Not paying attention, he went to sit down on the sofa, and nearly sat down on me! I’m sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed that experience, however, I did pay him back for that when I reached up and grabbed his beard as he held me. There is a picture somewhere of me, falling asleep as a toddler, sucking on my fingers and playing with his beard.
From him, I get my love of music and books. Granny used to always say that between he and I, we would have to move out of the house so the books could move in! We have bookshelves in every room of the house. One thing I noticed is that you can learn alot about a person based on the books they read. With Uncle Jimmy, alot of his books are about music, education, the Catholic Church. But hidden in all those books is a hardcover edition of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Some of his favorite books now are the Harry Potter series (I introduced him to that one!). He’s a very softspoken man, and the only time I’ve ever seen him raise his voice to the television when yelling at the conservative side of politics.
He helped to raise me with Granny when Dad died, and truly is the closest thing to a father figure that I’ve had in my life since Dad died.