Cool, Crazy Uncle Curtis

May/6/2017 4 Malia Lane
Family

I think everybody needs a “cool and crazy” uncle in their lives and my Uncle Curtis fit that bill to a T for me.

Curtis - army

I don’t know what year the picture above was taken, but today is his Memorial Service in New Orleans. And as much as I will always honor and remember him, I feel he would understand why I can’t get there in person today since I literally just got back to Sedona after being back in Texas due to another death in the family.

So today I sit and think about my relationship with this exceptional man and give thanks that he was in my life for so long. At 85 years old, he was the last of my mom’s eight siblings to leave this earth. Like I wrote about my sweet Aunt Loretta, she was the aunt and he was the uncle I never felt an ounce of judgment from, despite my always feeling like the disappointing black sheep of the family, especially during my most rebellious hippie days.

Curtis & me - young

He actually seemed to get a kick out of me and his wild sense of humor could always put me in fits of laughter no matter what. He also rebelled against society norms by buying me a drink or two when I was underage as we’d joke together not to let my mom know.

crazy smileyWhen I was a very little girl, I somehow had the idea that because we loved each other so much, we would get married when I was older. I also remember being a bit upset when I later heard about a girlfriend he had in the Philippines when he was in the service. I guess I was always a weird child.

Curtis & Mom with drinks

Not that my mom couldn’t be cool sometimes, too, because I do remember her taking me through drive-through places in New Orleans where you could get sweet Tom Collins to go. I know for sure my mom was happy to see him when he showed up in spirit, too! I wonder when and where this picture was taken. One really neat memory I have of him was his taking me to the Top of the Mart restaurant in New Orleans and how ritzy I felt then, since that kind of treat was not usual for me and who had ever heard of a rotating rooftop restaurant!? I sure wish I had video or at least a picture of the way we danced there!

Curtis dancing with Loretta

But I’m loving seeing pictures from my cousin, Vincent, though, that I hadn’t seen before – like this one of him and my Aunt Loretta dancing. I swear, I can picture them cutting a rug in heaven, too!

Curtis, Me, baby AngeliqueUncle Curtis, Me and Angelique at Audubon Park – 1969

Last night when I was reading what my daughter, Angelique, wrote about him, I also gave thanks that she had the gift of him in her life, too, and that they remained close. I answered her post saying that he loved her from the very minute she was born. That thought made me laugh and cry at the same time. At that moment I felt a “rush” of Uncle Curtis around me and I don’t know how else to explain it but I “heard” his Cajun accent voice in my heart say, “Well, girl, I loved you from the minute you were born, too, and you’re a lot older so we had even more time together!”  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that and just say “I love you, Uncle Curtis!”

I was then treated to other memories playing through my head – like when I was older and we went bar hopping at Fat City or the French Quarter. His sense of humor was sometimes dry and you had to think twice to get it. When we were looking at a menu trying to decide what to eat, he said, “I don’t think I want that shrimp manure, though.” I looked at him like he was crazy, then looked at the menu and realized he was talking about shrimp menure! We looked at each other and laughed so hard I said I had to go to the bathroom before I peed on myself.  We laughed even harder when he said it was funny that shrimp shit made me pee myself!

Curtis eating crab

Eating was always one of his favorite pastimes, and there was nothing he loved better than seafood. He also always said how much he missed the great cooking of his sisters but was glad they taught him to cook some of his favorite dishes.

Loretta, Wilma, Curtis, Milton, Mom

I took this picture of the then-remaining siblings in March, 2009. From left to right, Aunt Loretta, Aunt Wilma, Uncle Curtis, Uncle Milton, and my mom.  My Uncle Joe, Uncle Donald and Aunt Gloria passed before them. It’s a little hard to believe they’re all gone from this earth now, and with both my mama and daddy gone, I can’t help but feel a little more alone in the world now, but I also find great joy in thinking of the reunion of this crazy bunch when they got together again!

So I guess I won’t be sending you any more scenic or funny postcards from my travels, Uncle Curtis, but I think you’ll be with me in spirit anyway. I remember your telling me how much you loved to travel, too, and that you wished you had done more of it for pleasure when you were healthier, so you always encouraged me to follow my own “crazy” travel dreams.

Curtis memorial picPicture from Memorial

One of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou, “People won’t remember what you said, or what you did, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.” Uncle Curtis, you made me feel loved, accepted and cherished for exactly who I am and never tried to make me into anything else. I have always loved you for that and I will never, ever forget you.

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  • J.C. Webber III

    Condolences on your loss. And I understand what you mean about feeling more alone. It feels weird becoming an orphan, even if it happens in your 60s.

    • Thanks for the comment and understanding. Yes, it really is weird – even though we know these losses are part of life, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with sometimes.

  • Kathi Channell-Beard

    What a wonderful tribute to your favorite uncle and what a treasure that you have all those old pictures to share! My deepest sympathy on your loss, but I’m sure you know that he will continue to live in your heart until you meet again over the Rainbow Bridge.

    • You’re so right that I’m thankful for the pictures I have, although I wish I had more now. So many things we don’t think of until it’s too late… But I do totally agree that given the special bond we shared, I know we will meet and laugh together again. Thanks, Kathi!