Saturday, April 08, 2023

Uncle Jimmy


                                                       L to R - John, Molly, Uncle Jimmy


When this blog was actually alive and kicking, so was my Uncle Jimmy.

My Uncle Jimmy died a couple of days after Christmas in 2021, age 80. Today, we laid his ashes to rest.

It was delayed for a number of reasons, chief among them being that one of Uncle Jimmy's wishes was that he and his partner of almost 50 years, John Walsh (who predeceased him) desired that the cremated remains of their many beloved pets be included in their burial. However, one lovely cat is still with the living. Rather than spend possibly several years looking at the cat, then looking at our watches while tapping our feet, it was decided that we should go ahead with the service now and let McGee (the cat) not feel as though he was holding things up by continuing to live.

Anyway, Jimmy loved this blog and often gave me good family stories to share here. I feel it's only right to mention his service here. We celebrated Jimmy and John's lives via a burial service at Forest Hills Cemetery, one of the most beautiful resting places in New England. They bought the plot decades ago. Now they are there, forever together.

As part of the service, I wrote a personal remembrance of Uncle Jimmy. I didn't totally stick to the script, but I did use most of it. I now put it here and I hope Uncle Jimmy, and John, will like being (possibly) the final entry on this blog.



My Uncle Jimmy was, in two ways, the coolest relative I had.

First, he was the uncle I looked up to as being totally hip. When I was a young teen, he was doing all sorts of things that made him appear awesome. Some of them were illegal, but coming from the neighborhood I came from and in the time period I was living in, that made him even more cool. It was the late 60s and early 70s, and he had shoulder length hair, a mustache, wore the latest fashions, listened to music on the cutting edge, had friends in high places (both politically and metaphorically), and could be counted on to do you a big favor if you needed one.

For instance, because of his high political connections, he secured a summer job for me with the city of Boston, at a time when I was hurting for work. Because of his other type of high connections, he got me and several of my friends tickets for my first real concert; second row seats for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He got those tickets directly from the promoter. He asked nothing in return from me other than a thank you.

He could be counted on to have the latest and the best of anything. He was the first person in my family to have a color TV, for example, in the 1960s, and it was top of the line. He had the best scotch - and the best weed. He was a daring pilot. And he had an almost unerring ability to spot humbugs, scams, hypes and liars. He was the hippest person in any room he entered.

The other way he was cool was in the sense of being reserved. He was, for all of his outgoing political ways, a very private person and not especially easy to get close to personally. If you knew enough about him, you understood why. He grew up at a time when his sort of lifestyle wasn't considered in any way normal. Not that he made a big secret of it; he was too cool to worry about what narrow-minded people thought of his choices. Everybody in the family knew and didn't care. But there were some situations where he considered it prudent to not be open and it no doubt contributed to him being so guarded in other ways.

Despite his cool demeanor, Jimmy was a generous person. He always offered help, if he felt someone might need it. He paid for a few things, for a few people I know of, while never expecting repayment. I admired that.

Another way he was generous – and this of course applied to John also – was in regard to animals. They loved animals and all of the many animals they took in hit the jackpot in terms of being loved and well cared for. I remember the first cat they had together. His name was Kitty Cat. Kitty Cat was a lovely purebred cat, an Abyssinian, with one giant flaw. He had one ear lopped off. Jimmy and John found him, as a kitten, in a trash barrel. The conjecture was that some heartless soul threw him away because his purebred status had been compromised with the injury to his ear. Anyway, Jimmy and John took him out of the trash, brought him home, and gave him all the love they possibly could, and Kitty Cat turned into a fine handsome big cat, extremely loving and friendly, and had a long full life because of their generosity.

Jimmy loved me, and I loved him. For whatever reason, I was just about the only Sullivan with whom he stayed in contact following the deaths of his siblings. Others made overtures to him, trying to establish relationships, but he almost always stayed aloof. I don't know why I was his chosen go-to for family, but I felt honored by it. Like I said, he spotted fakes a mile away, so it was a big compliment that he and I kept in touch so much. Jimmy didn't suffer fools gladly, so that was a compliment, also. Jimmy could be, if there's a best sense of this word, vicious. Generally, it was humorous; he'd make a joke or quip, but there was always a point and it was often that the person he was talking about was a jerk. He could be rough, and as a result it was a running joke among the Sullivans that, should Jimmy and John have separated, some wondered if we could get custody of John.

Small brag: I had a very popular blog for a number of years, and Uncle Jimmy loved it. He would call and tell me great family stories that he thought I could write up. I appreciated that, and I got a lot of material from him, some of which made its way into print on bigger stages when I had some success as a newspaper columnist. He also sent me any family ephemera he came across – photos and such, but also odd things like my father's catechism, a Sullivan heirloom of a kit for the Catholic sacrament of extreme unction, my great uncle Jim's handbook from when he was a Massachusetts state representative, political campaign buttons, and other odds and ends. He knew I'd enjoy seeing them and would treat them with some respect.

One trait Jimmy had, and I like to think I share with him, was loyalty. The most successful relationship of any in his generation in my family, was the one between he and John. Once Jimmy committed to someone or something, he was all in. You could count on his loyalty through thick and thin. Of my mother and father, and all of my aunts and uncles and their spouses, Jimmy and John's was the only relationship that lasted from start until a death. Everybody else had divorces, separations... Jimmy and John were solid and loyal. Donna and I have the second-longest relationship in our families, and maybe we'll be blessed enough to surpass the longevity of Jimmy and John.

I could go on, but just one other thing I'd like to mention in closing. Donna and I both love fruitcake. For many years, without fail, Jimmy and John would send us a fruitcake at Thanksgiving. This continued even through Jimmy's final illness. Despite both of their misgivings concerning organized religion, the fruitcake always came from the Trappist monks in Kentucky (the same ones who fashioned the urn for cremation...) We loved receiving it, enjoyed eating it, and will always be reminded of them around Thanksgiving when we don't receive that treat.

Thank you, Uncle Jim. May God bless you and John.