So I've adopted old people instead. I've tried to chose grandparents to love and listen to who could replace the ones I felt like I should have been given. Replace the ones who were taken away before I had the chance to meet or be conscious of their existence. Then slowly the ones I adopted began to leave me and the old ache and resentment of the original loss sprang anew.
I'm losing one of my adopted grandparents. He is my great great uncle Alphonsa "Fuzz" Cook. He stepped in, unknowingly, to replace the love and kindness I like to imagine I would have received from his older brother Frank. I probably would not have gotten much from Frank. The more I delve into his life the more problematic he becomes. He was a slender, intelligent man who was full of ideas. He pushed hard against the limits set upon him by his race and his poverty but for every small win there were lingering losses that eventually took him down at an early age. There did not appear to be too many people around to shed tears when he was gone. But my uncle Fuzz was different.
My Uncle Fuzz was cautious and hard working. He had a little ice cream stand that he pushed around in front of a bicycle. Then when he was barely old enough he joined the Navy as a cook. He fought his way out of poverty, and out of Atlanta, a city that for him would always be a world of drama, frustrations and familial entanglements that seemed to constantly threaten his sanity. He married a beautiful, feisty young woman named Shirley and he took her around the world. They got away from the crime, the problems, the servant jobs and the segregation. They made a life for themselves and their children in Italy, Germany, Scotland and later Newport, RI.
I will miss him and it is an honor to do so.