Ithaca Blog

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Uncle Jimmy, The Great Black Sheep

My Uncle Jimmy passed away this week. Cancer.

Or smoking, basically. Of the 10 siblings of my father's family, the 4 who are alive do not smoke, and the 6 who have died all did.

Jimmy cooperated well with his doctors, which surprised us, as he could be irascible, especially with authority figures. On the other hand, he could be charming, especially with children. He and my Aunt Sheila had three great boys. He loved children, and they loved him.

Including me. He taught me the expression "Peepings might be catchings." We were riding in a car and I pointed out a prison on Atlantic Avenue. He physically turned my head. "You should never look at a prison," he said. " 'Peepings might be catchings,' you ever hear that saying? It means if you want to look at it so bad, maybe you'll be inside next. Get me?" I suppose I did, but I was 3 at the time.

Jimmy would pay bridge tolls for people behind him, whom he didn't know, but would tell the collector they were his family and they didn't have cash. Then we would all turn and watch the confusion.

And as much as I regret his smoking, I will mention that he made me laugh pretty good once as the only person I ever saw smoking a cigarette in church.

He was a tough guy, a funny guy, and a good man, especially a good family man. I loved him and will always miss him.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

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