Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bronx Stories: Tio Jorge

Tio Jorge (Uncle George). What can I say? He is that uncle in everyone's family who is unmarried with no children. He is that uncle with the stinky feet and you don't want to sit next to at family functions. He is the one who ends up watching the kids when there is no one else to babysit. He is the one who always lives with a sibling because he can't hold down an apartment. He was also the one who I watched cartoons with in the morning. He was also the one who walked me to school when I was younger as my mother was still adapting to her new medications.

Unfortunately, he was the one who drank too much and dabbled in too many drugs. Tio Jorge became involved in shooting up heroine and smoking crack. His heart was weak from all of the substance abuse and it was decided that he would need open heart surgery. He died on the operating table. My mother cried as she buried her baby brother. I cried as I selfishly mourned the fact that I would not be having a sweet sixteen. All the money that should have gone to ballgowns, limos and catering halls, went instead to two funerals (one here in NYC and the burial in Puerto Rico) plus airfare for every adult in the family. I was angry for a long time as I had worked so hard to be the good daughter and earn that sweet sixteen. Now I see how selfish I was and am ashamed of how much I let it get to me. I should have mourned my uncle who was actually not such a bad guy with the exception of the drugs and alcohol. I regret so much but how else was I to feel. I was cheated by death.

For several weeks we prayed saying the "Hail Mary" and "The Our Father" in Spanish in commemoration of my uncle's death and for safe passage of his soul to heaven. It was really difficult for me as I only speak conversational Spanish and not very well as it is entwined with street slang. We stood in a circle, with candles lit in the background, holding hands, chanting the prayer over and over and over again. It felt like we had been chanting this prayer for hours but in fact it was approximately thirty minutes. My father had stumbled over his words. My mother drew her arm back in a wide arc and slapped my father in the back of his head. It was so forceful that his glasses flew off of his face. My father simply picked up his glasses from the floor and began chanting again. Needless to say, whenever I was unsure of the correct words in Spanish, I remained silent and edged away from my grieving mother.

I wish I could tell Tio Jorge that I'm sorry and I miss watching cartoons with him in the afternoons. 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:


  1. Intense story. I could totally picture every prayer and the mourning of your mom. I was grabbed by this.

  2. I can relate to this, when I lost my mother I was devestated, then three days later I was told my husband had terminal Brain cancer and within 2 months he too had left me, it took time to get over my grief, I now look on them both with the happy memories they left me,


  3. @ Cheeseboy- Thanks. It was a very intense time in my life and my mother never really recovered from my uncle's death.

    @ Yvonne- I am so sorry to hear that you had one sudden death after another. I have learned also to think of the good times rather than the pain of loss. Thanks.

  4. Oh, Chary, there is so much heart in this. I can feel the 16 year old girl still in me... not admirable emotions, but VERY normal. So sad about Tio Jorge...

  5. Thanks Tami. Sometimes I have to reign in that little 16 year old girl since she is still a bit remiss about the Sweet 16.

    However, I have two daughters. I won't try to live vicariously through them but at least I get the experience.

    I still do miss my uncle even after 21 years. Goodness, I'm old.