Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Non-Obituary of Note

My great-uncle died on the eve of his 101st birthday.

There won't be anything in the newspapers as obituaries are prohibitively expensive these days. Media companies, like politicians, try to raise as much income as they can from death, whether it's from those who have died from what used to be known as "old age" or whether it is from the victims of mass violence.

Besides, he outlived all of his siblings, friends, and all but one of his children, so there are few left to notify.  Word of his death caused me to pause as my uncle was the last of our family to have been born on a reservation.

It's odd to receive word about his death in the midst of happy messages from the white families with whom I work, sent as they are from expensive vacation spots in New England.  He was born in proud poverty, worked his way to the middle-class, and always stayed close to the tribe.  A vacation for him was a weekend at a fishing cabin probably not twenty miles from where he was born.  That sounds horrible to many people; to him it was a grand luxury.

Imagine how much of human success and failure one would have seen if born two years before the U.S. entered WWI.  Imagine what it would be to finally live in a society that judged people not by race but by character, only to see it return once again to its obsession with identity politics.

Well, that never mattered to him.  I think he lived so long because all he ever read were the sports pages.  Although, in Ohio, that's been known to shorten lives, too.

Maybe it's because he stayed close to the tribe and to the land that was settled by his grandparents.  There may be a lesson in that.  It's a lesson that I'm re-learning in the evenings when I watch the sunset.