For many years, my homosexual uncle Eddie hung out at the Pilot Travel Center truck stop, out by the interstate highway, without a thought for how that might embarrass me, without a thought for how people might respond to him and also to anyone related to him, without a thought for how his lack of participation in society might have failed to provide support to any of his many nieces and nephews.
Under conscription (the draft) Eddie served in the United States army, spending his service time in Germany playing cards, and true to form. When my parents joked that he was too lazy to be a second-story man, I realized they meant that he was a thief. I had wondered how he supported himself over the years beyond the odd job here and there. He appeared to take whatever came easily. I recall that when my mother was beginning her descent into dementia, she stored a lovely lighted cabinet for him for a while. He had picked it up in his arms and walked it out of someone's house complete with all the Hummel figurines and other treasures the owner had collected. I was horrified and deeply saddened for whoever lost that treasure collection to him, but there was no way to correct the situation beyond demanding that he take it out of my parents' house, which he did.
Uncle Eddie lived with his mother, my maternal grandmother Hazel, for most of his life. He enabled her to stay in her own home even after Grandfather Loren died. Uncle Eddie helped Grandma Hazel for many years after she became housebound. Over the years Eddie gave Grandma Hazel many expensive pieces of jewelry which made her eyes twinkle with happiness.
I was sorry that Uncle Eddie was the first of my mother’s siblings to die as he was the least contentious. In fact, he was usually good-natured and fairly quiet. After he died they no longer played cards together every week. He passed from life after suffering for a long time with rectal cancer. He complained bitterly that the Veteran's Health Administration had failed him, causing his sister Mary to have to drive him to southern Illinois for regular but inadequate treatments, causing him to have to sit up for grueling four-hour round trips.
When my mother's parents and several of her siblings passed, the rest of the family stole most of her inheritances, but she and then I was somehow was left with several trifold memorial flags which had been given as a symbol of America's respect and gratitude for the service of men in our family to our nation. I made an appointment, then brought those old trifold memorial flags to a Bloomington, Illinois recruitment station. The trifold memorial flags were received with breathtaking respect. Those young men in uniform moved with military precision, saluted the flags, and promised to dispose of them according to their own dignified protocol. I was grateful.
On this Memorial Day I honor my uncle Edward McGrew's service to family and country. He illustrates the axiom that: No matter how well or poorly we do, each of us is doing the best that we can.
Caption: My Uncle Edward McGrew Was Gay As In Homosexual And Happy
collage by Annmarie Throckmorton 2011
Caption: Edward McGrew's service photo & trifold memorial flag
photograph by Annmarie Throckmorton 2011
Caption: "You're looking your usual sloppy self."
(Inscription on back of photo Eddie mailed to his mother for sympathy which he surely got.)
Caption: Edward McGrew obituary 04 25 2009