Uncle JP

Of the various awards I’ve earned over the years, the badges of honor that mean the most to me now are the titles “Granddaddy” and “Uncle JP.”

As I write this I’m in Florida in that latter role while Abby deals with the sudden and unexpected loss of Rui, my niece’s new dad. I’m here too to support Julie, Abby’s new mom, although perhaps my presence here is unnecessary. Abby and Julie have a strong support group, with family and friends eager to help, yet still I wanted to be here for them.

I remember being alone in Spain, with none of my family able or willing to assist, and I didn’t want Abby and Julie to have that same experience, that same longing, that same need to share the burden. Had it not been for Patrick’s many wonderful friends available for me 24/7 I doubt I would have survived. Three and a half years later, I remain incredibly thankful to Carol, Suzy, Ivonne, and the others for their unconditional support. But again I digress.

As I vaguely described in an earlier post, Rui was a generous, loving soul. He adored Abby as she adored him. Given the difficulties of Abby’s early childhood, the stability that Julie and Rui provided was the rescue vehicle she needed to become a smart, happy, beautiful young woman.

I am trying to write about Rui but I can’t seem to say anything in isolation. In truth the three of them were inseparable, newly recognized by the state as an official family, but inseparable from her very first year.

I miss Rui but nothing can compare to the loss that Abby and Julie must feel. And yet, somehow, they are coping, occasionally laughing, occasionally crying, but coping far better than I could have done.

Today was the viewing. It was difficult for us to enter the mortuary chapel, to see his body resting in a casket, eyes closed, hands crossed, a rosary woven in his fingers.

I had not intended to view the body, preferring to have my last memory of him to be of him in life, but it was okay, and it was important for me to be there for them.

Pride is one step away from hubris so I should find a better word, but since I’m too distracted to find an alternative, I’ll say it again: I’m proud to be called “Granddaddy” and “Uncle JP.”