Sunday, August 9, 2015

In Remembrance of my Uncle Jim

My Uncle Jim was a charismatic member of my family, as well as my guardian, my mentor, and my friend.
Memorial table
When I was growing up in Nashville, Tenn., I always looked forward to trips to Chattanooga to visit my grandparents. My mom’s brother Jim, the second youngest of the five children, was only 17 years old when I was born. I don’t remember much, if anything, from the earliest years of my life. But I do remember that Jim was the daredevil of the family, riding four wheelers and motorcycles, going offroad in a 4WD truck, etc. When we were old enough, he’d offer to take my sister Emily and I for a ride. I know my parents were apprehensive about letting us go, but we always had a blast and Jim was the reason I got to have those exciting experiences.
I wrote this.
I even had a tangible connection to Jim for a few years. When I was 16, my parents bought Jim’s old car, a Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 and gave it to me for Christmas. It was a great little car and I drove it until I was in college.

Jim was a firefighter at Red Bank Fire Department for over 10 years. I always liked to visit him at the fire station so I could climb on the fire trucks and wear his helmet. When I moved to Chattanooga to attend college at the University of Tennessee, Jim and his wife Jenny were living in Hixson. Jim was still a member of the fire department and he knew I had been a volunteer firefighter in Gallatin during my senior year of high school. He suggested I apply to join RBFD and attend training, which I did. I was the only female firefighter in the department during those years. It was challenging and often intimidating to say the least, but Jim was always around to offer support and encouragement.

When I was involved in a car wreck during my freshman year of college and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, Jim was there immediately to comfort me and get me home safely.
As a child, Jim's nickname was "Dammit" because his dad was always yelling at him for something.
There’s only one time I can recall that Jim got really upset with me. I had met an older firefighter during my time at RBFD and we started dating. Jim did NOT approve of this relationship and he had no qualms about telling me that I was making a huge mistake. While I didn’t agree with him, I knew he was watching out for me because he cared so much about me. As it turned out, of course, he was right.

I remember how excited and protective Jim was while Jenny was pregnant with Morgan and how he beamed with pride and joy after she was born. I was honored to be one of the first people to hold his baby daughter at the hospital.

I know Jim also appreciated how close I was with my grandparents (his parents, Jack and Barbara Patterson). When Granddaddy got sick, I would go over to their house on Godsey Lane to visit and help take care of him. When he was in the hospital, I would drive with my grandmother so she didn’t have to be alone. But Jim was the one by his side in the hospital room when my granddad took his last breaths.

We all left Chattanooga around the same time. I got a job with Delta Air Lines and moved to New York City to be a flight attendant. Jim, Jenny and Morgan moved to Terre Haute, Ind. so he could start a new job with Industrial Supply. We didn’t see each other as much in the following years, but I tried to come to as many family gatherings in Tennessee as possible and even flew in from California once to visit them in Terre Haute. It was always hard to believe so much time had passed, since the minute we were together it seemed like we had just talked yesterday.
Grandmother Patterson's 80th Birthday - March 28, 2009
More recently, when I quit working for a couple of years to travel around the world, Jim asked me point blank how much money it cost and how I had been able to save up so much while living in New York City. He had a hard time understanding how I was able to have such an exciting, adventurous life. I reminded him that I had been sacrificing for years, always living with roommates and minimizing possessions, plus I didn’t have a spouse or children. He acknowledged that and said he wouldn’t trade Jenny and Morgan for anything.
July, 2011
Jim experienced a lot of loss in the past few years but rarely let on that he was struggling. He called me one day out of the blue this winter and said he needed me to help him deal with a particular situation. We talked for about 30 minutes, not just about that one issue, but about life in general. I was really touched that he placed so much value in my opinion.
May 25, 2015
Our recent trip to Alaska will be a lasting memory of the fun times we shared. Just two months ago, we were all soaking up the sunshine and beautiful scenery of the Inside Passage from the decks of a cruise ship. Jim was always on the lookout for wildlife (or just an ice cream cone) and it was wonderful to have so many days together to talk and reminisce. I’ve been on a lot of cruises, but have never gotten so little sleep from staying up late drinking, dancing and laughing the night away.
May 26, 2015
I’m so very sad that you had to leave us so soon, Uncle Jim. I am thankful for each and every minute we spent together, in good times and bad, for all 41 years of my life. I hope that there are lots of birds, deer, power tools, Jeeps, and cheap beer wherever you are.
Memorial table we set up at the funeral home
Love always,


1 comment:

  1. I can FEEL your love for him. HARD hugs dear friend. That is all.