the story continues from yesterday....
The year was 1988. It was Tuesday, November 29, five days after Thanksgiving, a gray but unseasonably warm day, when, early in the morning, I got the call from my sister.....
Mom had died only moments earlier. After her long difficult struggle with colon cancer, she was finally released from her suffering. I immediatley headed for my sister’s house, an hour away by speeding car, and arrived before the men from the funeral home got there to take Mom’s withered body away. Yes, there were tears. There was grief. But there was also the real relief that she would no longer be suffering the terrible ravages of that horrible disease. That her death was expected certainly mitigated the sense of loss and prepared us for that inevitable day.
Carol and I then set about making the final funeral arrangements, and started the difficult process of calling relatives and friends to tell them about Mom. We tried calling Uncle Eddie and Aunt Frannie during this process, but got no answer. That was not unusual. They could have been out working in the junkyard, off fishing or hunting somewhere. We gave it no second thought as we drove around town, stopping at the funeral home, going to the florist, closing bank accounts. The usual mundane tasks that accompany anyone’s death.
Mom’s funeral was set for Friday, December 2. Everyone we could think of had been notified by Tuesday evening, the day Mom died. Everyone except Uncle Eddie and Aunt Frannie. We tried to reach them by phone but got no answer. Wednesday morning we found out why.
Everything after that is speculation, supposition, and basic guesswork based on what the police could put together. For while Carol and I had been driving around town on Tuesday, while we had been going through the process of preparing for Mom’s funeral, some person, or persons, had been in the process of beating Uncle Eddie and Aunt Frannie to death. They were found by my brother-in-law bludgeoned, lying in pools of their own blood, next to each other in the barn that served as both office and storage place for the junkyard.
Robbery was the suspected motive, but there was no way to determine what, if anything, had been taken. No one suspicious was ever seen near the junkyard. No witness has ever come forward. No one has ever been accused of the crime. To this day the case has remained unsolved. Now 18 years later, it is a cold, cold case.
We had two funerals within days. Mom’s was on Friday, Uncle Eddie and Aunt Frannie were buried on Monday. Five days after Thanksgiving in 1988, five days after seeing three of our family members still alive, our family was visited by an expected, even hoped for death, and the unexpected violent deaths that continue to shock our memories of that awful time.
Somewhere in the world, a killer is still loose. Somewhere in the world, that killer might be celebrating Thanksgiving.
Our Thanksgivings will always be haunted by the knowledge that our family was chosen to suffer a terrible loss at this time of year. But that only serves to remind us of how thankful we can be for the family we still have, while remembering Uncle Eddie’s fedora, still in place, tilted back on his head, Aunt Frannie sitting primly in the corner, tight curls neatly in place, and Mom in the kitchen supervising, organizing, and still getting everything in order the way it should be. As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving one more time, we will give thanks for having had them in our lives, while always wondering why they were taken away so cruelly.