Posted by: Tina M | 29 September , 2011

In Memory of My Poppy

It’s interesting that I never thought about the significance of the Poppy before dubbing my Uncle Joe the term of endearment. Only now, thinking of him through the veil of memory, do I see how strongly his military identity colors his persona in my mind. The Poppy is a sign of remembrance for soldiers that has been used since WWI. I remember helping at the VFW when I was growing up, making poppy plates as decorations to honor our Heroes on Veterans Day.

But how fitting, that I wear a Poppy to honor my own “Poppy”-

It’s hard to describe the impact that my Uncle Joe had on my life. It almost seems like my earliest memories weren’t of actually of him, but more of his absence. Hunting and Fishing trips kept him away when he wasn’t working, and it gave me an opportunity to hang out with my Aunt who didn’t mind having some company on her errands. But things shifted after my parent’s divorce and during my father’s slow withdrawal from my life. Him and my Aunt bought a trailer and rented a beautiful patch in a mobile home park on Lake Erie and this became my vacation spot. 3 hours away from home it felt like an exotic retreat and with my surrogate parents away from home we slipped into a humorous domesticity that was such a comfort to me. Joe accepted me into his life with open arms (although he was sometimes a pisser and would have to rag me about it first, he always made sure I knew that he loved me) and while I had a difficult time relating to a man, after feeling emotionally starved from the other paternal figure in my life, calling him “Poppy” always felt like the right balance of sass and sincerity.

My Poppy was the first man that showed me the battle masculinity has when it faces real emotion. He was definitely a strong character. He carried many war wounds, including a bullet forever embedded into his being as a reminder that the nightmares of battle were true stories based on his history. And yet, he also showed his passion. While it sometimes came out in anger, cynicism, or sarcasm; It also came through in genuine softening, and tears.

He also showed me what loyalty looked like. For some reason most of my closest family members don’t really have friends that they see on a regular basis. I remember Joe always having a strong friend in the background, planning fishing trips and discussing the most recent Nascar season together.  But each friend also came with their shortcomings, and I saw my Uncle face his disappointment and accept compromise or sometimes have to cut them off for his own well-being. No matter what, I felt like he cared deeply for each friend and continued to long past their departure from his inner circle.

As I grew older I didn’t get to go up to the lake with them as often and eventually I moved away. Visiting, I would always pop in to say Hello and remind him of my love and admiration for him.

My Poppy didn’t have the happy ending he deserved. His health became a losing game, having to suffer and recover from one health problem to the next. And while I was still not ready to face his departure from this present life, I would not deny him the relief and reward he’s now experiencing.  I imagine a 21 Gun Salute ushering his arrival into the pearly gates as he’s whisked away to his own private fishing boat. Floating on crystal waters, filled with lucious fish a plenty, he can rest and keep watch over all of us left missing him.

I love you Poppy.


Responses

  1. That was beautiful Tina. It brought tears to my eyes.


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