Corona Day Quarantine Day #16: Uncle Pat

Corona Virus Quarantine Day #15: April 1, 2020.

Many people made comments today about how they woke up this morning and found out that this corona virus craziness was a joke…sadly that isn’t the case.  If you all haven’t figured out yet how I cope with stress…it’s this.  Writing.  So tonight I needed this more than most nights.

Today I am going to focus on my mom.  My mom is 73 years old, she is the toughest person I know.  She has overcome more than most people can even imagine.  Honestly at times when I listen to her talk about her childhood…it’s hard to believe.  One day I will write the book, I want our kids to know what a total badass their Gaga really is.  That works starts tomorrow.

My mom, aka “Gaga” has been sick for about a month. She has had a debilitating headache for weeks.  She has tried antibiotics, good old fashioned rest and several other remedies to help ease the pain.  Then this quarantine happened.  I can’t remember the last time she left the house for something besides a doctor’s appointment.

Today she found out her brother Pat had passed away.  He was 61 years old and he died alone.

While I was not particularly close with my uncle Pat, he led a pretty troubled life and my parents protected us from him and his lifestyle for most of my childhood.  The memories I do have of him aren’t all good, but I do remember his big laugh and that he was always nice to me.  Regardless of these facts, his death has made a significant impact on me today.  I have been sad, agitated and impatient most of the day with all of the people under my roof.

I feel sad that this man wasted his life on drugs and crime.  I’m sad and a little angry that he didn’t really have a chance from the start.  Mostly…sad for my mom, who I know loved her brother so much but ended up being disappointed and burned every time she helped him…which was every time he asked.

Some context.

My mom was 11 when he was born.  Pat was her half brother, her mom’s son with another man.  Given the fact that Pat’s parents (which included my mom’s mom) were often out drinking my mom, Ellen, became an insta-parent over night…At. Age. 11.

She protected him, changed his diapers, fed him, rocked him to sleep, taught him how to read, and took him to school when he got old enough.  When we remembered this tonight together I sat across from the woman I admire most in this world and she cried.  Harder than she has cried in as long as I can remember.  That made me sad…and again, a little angry.

Tonight my husband asked my mom what the happiest moments of Pat’s life were and after thinking about it for a minute she answered “his childhood”.  My mom is responsible for giving this man the happiest moments of his life.

More context.

Aside from the fact that my mom took care of him until the day she moved out of her house at 18 (as soon as she was able to), she once considered marrying a man, named Steve so they could adopt Pat and save him from his parents’ house and give him a better shot at life.

I learned tonight that it was her doctor that actually talked her out of it.  He was a male doctor and he told her that if she made that choice that she would destroy her life.  He told her the only way to break the cycle of poverty she grew up in was to walk away and go to college.  Not to marry a drunk, like her own parents, even if it was to help her little brother.

I know that my mom wrestled with that decision, because I’ve never known a more selfless person.  Ultimately she decided that marrying Steve would be a mistake…mainly because she didn’t love him and also because she knew he’d end up just like her parents.  She told me tonight when she was coming home from work one evening she saw Steve stumbling drunk down the street.  I think that made the decision a little easier.  She’d lived with drunks her whole life…She did want a better life and she made a CHOICE to go get it.

My mom worked her way through college and became the first member of her extended family to get a college degree.  While I know that decision was hard for her and ultimately left Pat in that unhealthy home, she, for once, saved herself.

I am so grateful she did.  If she had made a different choice, I wouldn’t be here…neither would my sister or our kids.

So, today in our house, we are sad and to be honest…a little angry.  We are sad that my Uncle Pat, Gaga’s brother, didn’t make a decision to help himself.  We are sad that he didn’t make a different choice.  He had plenty of opportunities to do so and a lot of help from my mom during his childhood and adult life, he threw all those chances out the window.  As I reminded my mom tonight…”you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”.  Amidst the tears I got a laugh with that one since it’s one of her famous sayings…it also happens to be true.    Uncle Pat became a victim of his circumstances. He was given chance after chance and never made a different choice.

While it is certainly hard to grow up in an unhealthy home and live in poverty and changing your life isn’t easy…I also know it isn’t impossible to change your circumstances because I live with living, walking, breathing proof that it’s possible…my mom.  There is no one in this world I have admired more than her…She is beyond strong, beyond generous and beyond amazing.

So amidst this strange time, in a corona virus quarantine, my mom cannot go to Chicago to bury her brother…a man she once cared for like her own child.  I feel profound sadness for her.  I feel horribly sad for my Uncle Pat, what a horrible way to die…alone.  I feel a little angry at my grandparents that they couldn’t have made better decisions with their own life so that their kids life could have been a little easier.  As a parent myself there is no one I would protect more than my own kids…so I guess…I don’t get it.

I am incredibly grateful for the nurses and doctors that cared for him at the end of his life and made him as comfortable as possible.  There is a special place in HEAVEN for healthcare workers.  I’ve always felt this way but even more so during these times.

While the day went on as normal here…we had school, Mommy and Daddy worked, we played in the gorgeous sunshine, we went on a family bike ride, made s’mores by the fire and played a family game…there was an extra feeling of sadness in the air but also extreme gratitude in my heart that my mom made the choices she did all those years ago.  If she hadn’t…none of the things we did today would have been possible.

I hope you all enjoyed this beautiful day.  GOD bless you!  Stay well.


Gaga on her wedding day with her four brothers…from the left, Michael, Robert, Jackie and Patrick.uncle pat

A picture of Uncle Pat from a few years ago.



2 thoughts on “Corona Day Quarantine Day #16: Uncle Pat

  1. gayla janicek says:

    This was amazing writing Nancy….I really really felt the pain in your writing for your mom….
    a touching memorial for your Uncle Pat.


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