Saying It Out Loud

July 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm 2 comments

The second to the last thing I said to Uncle Tommy, back in June when I went to see him in the nursing home, was, “You’re a good man, Tom Loughrin.”
He shrugged his shoulders and smiled and joked, “Good for what?”
If I had stayed to answer the question, the first thing I would have told him was that I hadn’t always thought so.
Back when he was a boy, we used to dread going to the farm to see Grandma and Grandpa Loughrin. “Will Uncle Tommy be there?” We’d complain from the back seat. “He’s mean!”
I think he was a teenager about the time I was a five year old and Uncle Tommy seemed pretty scary back then. He followed us around — out to the porch, in the barn, up in the attic. He asked a lot of questions and wouldn’t leave us alone and tickled too hard and didn’t stop when we said ‘enough’.
But soon enough he was all grown up and seemed almost exotic — riding horses and traveling, actually leaving the farm for something else. And before long Uncle Tommy wasn’t around anymore when we visited Grandma and Grandpa. He was busy and on his own and the weekends were different without him. 
If we wanted to see him we had to stop at the barber shop on the bridge in New London. Quality time was when we sat long enough in a chair so he could cut our hair. He cut my hair more than once. He permed it once too, I think. I know for sure that he fixed my hair for Jeanne’s wedding. And I know for sure most of the time I didn’t like the way my hair turned out and I was a spoiled brat about it and told him so.
But he didn’t give up on us.
During the years we got together on the farm for the Loughrin reunions, Uncle Tommy would ask a lot of questions and he wouldn’t leave us alone and didn’t stop when we said ‘enough’. He knew we were being our surly teenage selves. So Tommy hung in there, and stayed interested and didn’t give up on us. He wanted to know us.
Life got busy, like it does. I didn’t go to as many Loughrin reunions. Then they stopped happening at all.
But one year I was at the cottage on the 4th of July and Tommy was there. It happened again the next year and the one after that too. It became part of our 4th of July tradition, an unspoken thing between us. If I went to the cottage on the 4th of July weekend, then I’d get to see Uncle Tommy. He knew we’d be there too.  He’d show up after the rodeo parade in Manawa. Uncle Tommy would arrive in various states of sobriety. He’d sit out in the yard and smoke and drink some more and talk. He’d ask a lot of questions and wouldn’t leave us alone. We were family — he ours, us his.
That family thing — that only happened because Uncle Tommy didn’t stop. Even when sometimes we said ‘enough’. He didn’t stop.
I liked two things best about Uncle Tommy.
#1— He called my mom Jenny. Not Jeanette. Jenny. It always reminded me that he knew her differently than I did. When he said it I knew he loved her and that she loved him. Growing up, even when you’re all grown up, that’s a good thing to know.
#2 – He danced with my sister Jeanne. She wasn’t the most graceful dancer; you had to be a pretty good sport to polka ‘round the Bear Lake Dance Hall with Jeanne. But I’ve got pictures of the two of them dancing at nearly every wedding and anniversary party.
And because of all of that, the last thing I said to Uncle Tommy was, “I love you.”
It’s the first time I’d actually said that to him. And I’m not sure why I waited so long.
But Tommy didn’t skip a beat. As easy as his next breath he said, “I love you too.”
And that’s the thing about Uncle Tommy. I always knew that. He loved us all.
So I’ll say it again, “You’re a good man, Tom Loughrin.”
December 26, 1944 – July 24, 2011

Entry filed under: Living Out Loud. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen  |  July 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    A beautiful homage to a wonderful man. Thank you for sharing Uncle Tommy with us. I’m so sorry for your loss but so happy you two found each other through the years.


  • 2. Lainie  |  July 29, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Sue, this is a beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for letting us in and sharing some of what made your Uncle Tommy such a special man. Love,Lainie


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