Psychology studies tell us that when someone dies people go through several stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Recently I learned of the passing of one of my uncles on my Father’s side of the family. I started to think about the last time I saw him, and it rolled into thinking about another one of my uncles as well. The question to myself was whether the stages of grief would present themselves and how I felt about him dying and why I started to think about my other uncle. And it all made sense, I was not feeling Denial, or Anger, or feeling bad. Strangely, it was a relief. Why relief? I don’t know for sure, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
When I was a very young boy, I got myself in trouble a lot. Not the kind of trouble that will have my mother worried but a different kind of trouble. Not because I was a bad kid, but because some people had decided that I was. I should explain.
I present to you Uncle number one. Not the one that died. I’ll get to him a little later. I was told to put it simply, that he was a nice person trying to teach me. Maybe he was a nice person, I’ll let you decide. But first some background.
As a very busy young person, my free time was very limited. Due to circumstances that I could not control, I had to go to school, rush home to eat, and off I went to work, get home by 7, and repeat the same thing the next day. Monday to Friday there was no time for anything else. On Saturdays, I also had to go to work, but it was a short day and I was off by 11 or 12, just on time to go play some soccer with my cousins and the other kids. After the game, I’ll go shower at my grandmother’s house about 15 minutes away. It was way better to shower at her house than at my house. She had a regular shower with hot water, and at home, I had to use buckets. This was In Mexico, so it was not unusual for some people to not have shower bathrooms in their houses.
Uncle Number one, will come around my grandmother’s house and kick me out and prohibit me many times from showering at her house. I got the timing dialed in perfectly, I knew that if I was out of my grandmother’s house by 4 I would miss him. Somehow he knew I was there and Whenever I ran into him on the street or anywhere else, he would make sure to let me know I was not welcome there.
There were some times when he was nice. Only if it only lasted a short time. By a short time, I mean, a very short time. Maybe a couple of hours. In the spring and before the summer rain will come, he will round up some of the cousins, including myself and he will take us to a cornfield he had. . When he was nice he was convincing us to go with him. Once we were there, he would transform himself into a mean and aggressive person. We will have to work, cutting and pulling weeds to make the field ready for planting. It was really hard labor, there were no tractors, no water to drink. We had to break the soil using mattocks picks. Blisters in hand and sweat down the cheeks. One day…. I refused.
As I mentioned earlier, I was very young and had limited free time. Uncle number one wanted to take some of it away from me and have my work done for free. Maybe he was trying to teach me that if I did hard labor for free, that it would teach me how to work. I already had a full-time job. Maybe he was trying to teach me not to use the hot water for showering at my grandmother’s house because it would help conserve gas. I’ll let you decide. One thing is for sure after I refused to work for free, my life became more difficult.
Enter Uncle Number two, The one that died…. I had no idea who that man was when I first met him, but he knew who I was and he came looking for me. I remember vividly sitting on the sidewalk in front of my cousin’s house. This uncle stood there towering over me asking me questions. I remember being confused. Why was this man asking me about my mom and My brother? After some further interrogation, I figured it out…My grandfather had died years earlier but I still remembered how he looked and this person looked just like him. So I concluded that this must be one of my uncles that had just arrived from the United States to visit. Why I did not question what followed I don’t know. He told me to go home, and surprisingly I did.
This uncle knew my schedule and where I worked. He did show up to my work a couple of times to see if I was there. Just like uncle number one, he will take any opportunity to lecture me on discipline and hard work, and how I needed to be better than what I was. One of those times he said, “ I better not catch you playing soccer, or you’ll get it”.
I don’t remember why I was not working for a couple of days, but I was off work. I knew everyone always played soccer at 4 pm, so I decided to go play. I did not make it. My uncle somehow knew I had the day off and probably knew I was going to show up to play. He had warned me about it, and for some reason, he was going to prevent me from doing it. I kid you not, he was waiting by the entrance of the lot where we played belt in hand. I ran home.
The last time I saw uncle number two, he caught me “slacking”. He yelled at me and told me Uncle number one should have used a belt on me when I refused to help him. I guess they had talked about how bad I was. I responded by saying I have a job and I do not work for free. Well, let’s just say I could say no more. He Aimed at my face with full force and slapped me so hard I fell to the ground. I never saw him again, and never heard about him again until recently when I heard He had died.
Does psychology get it right? Do we go through the stages of grief when a relative dies? I guess it all depends and getting slapped in the face certainly veers the psychology in a different direction.