Thursday, August 08, 2013

Al Etzel

My Uncle Al died Monday, 5 August around 2pm.  It was unexpected even tho he was 78 and was still working full time at VitaMix... every single day!  Even tho he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had radiation every morning before work for the past 2 months.  Thursday night he came home and cut their huge lawn, on a riding lawn mower.  Friday he didn't feel well, weak but everyone has expected that due to the radiation. So he actually stayed home.  Vomited but by Saturday felt good enough to want to eat. The vomiting began again and then diarrhea.  Aunt Carol took him to the ER at SW General in the evening.  They needed to do CPR at 10:30.  His heart stopped at 2:30am and they got that started and put him in an ambulance to take him to Cleveland UH...and on the way he arrested again.  He was on a ventilator, nonstop kidney dialysis since the enzyme levels were so high.  His Myasthenia Gravis was in chronic mode and it had been in remission.  Monday night the hospitals and doctors told Carol it was medically futile to resuscitate him again and she needed to come and in and say her goodbye.  That did not surprise me. I was glad she was able to say goodbye and let him go.  I had talked to Megan Etzel who had yet to say her goodbyes. Asked her to whisper in his ear:  I've talked with Susan and she says to tell you she loves you and now you are to go find Gladys Mae.  And when I said that I broke down in Ren and Stimpy tears.  The cause of death is sepsis.

The hard part is not letting him go. The hard part is what the past 10+ years have been like.

When my father died and I was 4 months old, my mom and I continued to live with my grandparents and Carol, who was 13 at the time.  She had been so infatuated with my father. There are pictures of her always holding his hand, much to my mom's dismay.  Carol could tear apart a rifle and put it back together again at 9 years of age, thanks to the time she spent with my father.    So I grew up with Carol as more of a sister than an aunt and that's how it remained.

Carol married right out of high school...I mean RIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL to an abusive man (Chuck Naumann..that's for genealogy sake).  I was the flower girl. Can still remember the pink organdy, dotted flocked dress with this head piece/hat that was also pink and shearred on a wired frame.  But that marriage was done within 9 months. Carol went on to be a Marine.

(She served 18 months in the reserves, her unit being responsible for supplies.  She learned how to keep records of the needed supplies.  Summers she went to Camp LeJeune where she learned to march and stand for 3-4 hours at attention, among other things.  I remember when she took me to Camp Fire Girls' camp and showed us how to make a bed so tight that a quarter could bounce on the bed...something else she learned at the USMC camp.  When her unit was disbanded she had the option of going regular but opted not to.)
 and met Al, a Navy man.

(Al was an electrician and worked on submarines.  The scariest part for him was that he couldn't swim so he had to learn this.  He learned he needed to hold his breath in order to rise slowly to the surface.  He also served time on aircraft carriers and spent some of his Navy years in Texas.)
 When they married I was not there.  I was in the 5th grade and we were having our yearly trip to Greenfield Village.  I remember being at my godparents home with Debi when Carol and Al came to get us in his '57 Chevy, white exterior with red interior, to take us to Parma and to learn of my beloved Poppy's (Carol's dad) death.

But for every holiday, every birthday, every event, Al and Carol were with us or we were there. Or we were at their home for some activity or picnic.
 How's this for a vintage photo...this was one of many on display at the funeral home.

Many good memories EXCEPT for poor Marissa who had asthma and truly suffered from all the cat dander!

All that changed when their son (who was born late into their marriage and himself married later in his life, at least by my standards) married Megan.  From then on, Carol and Al only did things with Megan's family.  It's been hard to understand.  And what I needed to do at this time of his death, is to attempt to disconnect myself from the whole situation, except emotionally.  Normally, as a family I would have been there to help or to guide or to cook.  But Carol has Megan to lean on and Megan is a mover and a shaker.

Luckily there will be a meet and greet today altho I can't call it a viewing because the casket will be closed.
 Here are the beautiful kids Richard has (Ashley and Zak) along with our Guy.

 This is Patsy and Johnny at the funeral home. Honor loved Johnny's walker. She could push it and pull it, pull up on it and pull the knobs.  After this we went to Applebees for dinner.  Johnny was so happy to be seated next to Honor.  And Honor loved it because Johnny would put a french fry on the edge of his plate so that she could reach it and gnaw away at it.  Along with my steak, I think she's ready for real grown up food.

Tomorrow there will be a private family burial in the Ohio Western Reserve Cemetery at Rittman, Ohio, in the cemetery dedicated to service men and women.  A simple beautiful place, quiet and restful, out in the country surrounded by farms and lovely yard.
This is the one cross roads dedicated to the 4 Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel during the sinking of the troop ship USAT Dorchester on Feb 3, 1943, during World War II.  They helped others board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

  No funeral service.  Carol did ask Robert to say a prayer and I clarified to be sure she mean a grave dedication.  There has never been religion in their home nor lives.  Al grew up with very stern and strictly religious parents.  I think they burned him out on that topic.

This ended up being quite a solemn and lovely service.
This is the pall bearers which included Al's grandson, young and a beautiful young man.

Then there was an amazing gun salute.  We were told to be prepared for 3 volleys and to cover our ears, especially the ears of the younger kids.

The flag was then folded with such honor and respect.

And presented to Carol, 'on behalf of a grateful nation', the Navy and the President of the United States.

The shell casings were presented to Carol later.

The beautiful red roses from a funeral arrangement were handed to each of us, which we could place on the casket as we left or to take home to remember Al.  Robert placed his, I brought mine home.
  But Al meant a lot to my kids.  And for those memories I am grateful.

Here's what they wrote on FB after he died:
Marissa:  Bye for now, Uncle Al.  You were the only one I felt comfortable enough with to ask for crackers, may your calm, quiet demeanor rest in peace til we meet again.

Dawn:  remembered those crackers were RITZ...and she is correct. That brought about some more tears when I read RITZ.    Al and Carol always did have Ritz, something we didn't seem to buy ourselves.

Jocelyn:  Sad to mark the passing of the only Uncle I ever knew...still miss holidays at Uncle Al's and Aunt Carol's and how they put up with us loud kids!  A great pianist and Corvette racer. Give Grandma and Grampa a huge and kiss from me.  Now that's something to smile about.

Cara:  It took me a very very long time before I realized my Uncle Al was actually my GREAT-Uncle Al.  He was always great in my heart and will continue to be even now that he has graduated this life.

And so it goes.  As Robert says, we are born to die. I drive to Euclid to pick up my godparents, Patsy and Carol are first cousins...and take them to Elyria for the funeral home...and then back to Euclid.  They have opted to not attend the burial which is a good thing.  Neither are very stable on their feet and it would be a long drive.

Families are interesting and complex organizations. They grow and they change.  They alter...some times for the good and sometimes not....but in our hearts and minds we need to remember the good times, the memories.  Al playing a stupid word game one Christmas and his sentence was: My eye is on your fly.  That had us in stitches for years.  Being with them when Richard got off the school bus as a kindergartener...late as is often the case with first runs of buses and Carol being frantic.  Of Richard at barely 3 trying to get into the '56 Chevy they had given Robert to learn to work on.  Richard was all about seeing and touching car parts.  The AMC Gremlin they gave Robert for work that was a gas hog and earned the name Gremhog which then became our family's secret word.  Watching Al (and Carol) race one of many Corvettes.  Al BBQing ribs in his backyard.  The homes they lived in...6510 Morningside Drive with her parents, then on their own in Brunswick.  A miserable OLD farmhouse on Law Road in Grafton. Then a brand new amazing home in Strongsville.  And lastly the home on Capel, again in Grafton.  And now his home on high...wherever high is.  Goodbye Uncle Al...loved you.

Here is his family, at the flag.  Richard, Ashley, Megan.....the Navy Seal for Al....Zak and Carol.


Lin Floyd said...

it's too bad in these modern times that families live so far apart so that memories can be made...

Nikki said...

Thank goodness for memories! Thinking of you.

Cara said...

Very sweet memorial. thanks!

Dawn Barrett said...

You are a good historian...

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