Friday, June 26, 2009

A loss closer to home

The deaths of celebrities Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett made headlines Thursday but a far more personal loss occupied my mind all day.

My uncle, Edwin Durham, passed away at Wilson Medical Center after a grueling fight with cancer. Uncle Ed, or "Eben" as my late grandmother always called him, probably had as much to do with my love of sports as anyone I know. He married twice but never had any kids of his own and his five nieces and nephews all considered him as a second dad.

A character by nature, Uncle Ed was the consummate fun uncle, always ready with a joke or "joshing" someone about something. His light-hearted demeanor masked a stubborn streak that he always said had to do with having "Durham in him."

My weekly Sunday morning visits with my son Bennett to see Uncle Ed at the farm house he maintained following my grandfather's death 12 years ago will be missed greatly. So will the stories he would tell about playing ball

Uncle Ed played (catcher, mostly) for the Gardners baseball team in the old semi-professional Bright Belt League. He played against or with such players as Red Gay, Earl Boykin, Rabbit Fulghum and the Griffin brothers. In those days (the 1940s and '50s), most of those players spent their day working hard on a tobacco farm before going out to play ball in the evenings. Having toiled briefly in the tobacco fields in the mechanized 1980s, I can only imagine what it was like to spend the day in a field with a mule pulling the trailer, taking out a barn of tobacco at dawn and hanging another two or three in the brutal summer heat and not having the luxury of air-conditioning when you got home.

A Korean War veteran, Uncle Ed was part of that generation who worked hard and did the best they could at what they did. Our conversations usually centered around sports. He still kept up with the local sports scene, inquiring in his final days about the new Little League baseball complex that just opened.

Death is never easy to handle, even though I've dealt with it far more frequently than I would have imagined I would at my age. I knew Uncle Ed didn't have much time as it was apparent cancer was eating away at him despite his unwillingness to acknowledge it. He always said, "When it's your time, it's your time."

So true and now I'm just left with memories and an appreciation for another person who meant a great deal to me.

1 comment:

  1. Mr Ed lived across the road from our family on 42 East. Paul, you're right Mr Ed Durham had a phenomenal heart for baseball and children. Though our son Luke and youngest daughter Faith are not yet old enough to play organized sports, Mr. Ed always kept a watchfull eye on our oldest daughter's softball progress. Be it travel, county or school softball Mr. Ed kept up. So many years Mr. Ed delegently sat, watched and supervised Brooke Jones pitch through the hot summer heat and brisk cold winter months. Always encourageing Brooke to deliver a better pitch than the last one. He'd say "Make that ball move from corner to corner, your batter has to swing at something sooner or later!" Going forward, Brooke will remember Mr Ed and his tackfull baseball expressions. What an inspiration he was to Brooke and her parents.
    Not to be forgotten, Mr Ed's dedication to his most fruitful and immaculate vegetable garden. We're going miss seeing him plow each spring and through the summer.
    Mr Ed left behind a cat that was also near to his heart. Not exactly sure what Mr Ed's called his feline friend... in his absence we respectfully named him "Mr Ed".
    Though Mr Ed and Mr Jimmy Durham are no longer with us our memories of Christmas mornings, cutting grass, him wanting to see Brooke pitch "just so I can your ball talk', plowing his garden, farming and just being a real good neighbor will forever hold a special place in our family's heart.
    Every family needs a Mr. Ed Durham! Be it... Brother-Uncle-Friend or Neighbor!!