Out on one of my walks today the strangest feeling came over me and I was flooded with memories of my Uncle 'Dane.' "Dane" is my Uncle Duane, my father's last surviving brother. When I was little I could not say "Duane" so I called him "Dane."
Eldred Raymond "Pudd" Lewis and Winnifred Griffin Lewis had four sons. In order of birth: Gerald Eldred Lewis, Barry Raymond Lewis (my father), Duane Griffin Lewis, and Winston David Lewis. (In the photo above left to right, My grandfather Eldred (I called him 'Ba'), my Uncle Jerry (Uncle Deed), Uncle Duane (Uncle Dane), Dad, and Uncle Winston (Uncle Winkie). They all grew up in the family home at 1 Campbell Street in Boothbay Harbor on the coast of Maine. That home, to the left in the picture above, is as clear in my memory as if I just walked out of it an hour ago. That home was where all the family events took place. That home was my Father's home and the other three young men in that photo were his brothers.
Uncle Duane was still young when I was a very young lad. He joined the Air Force where he was an MP. I remember missing him a lot in the four years he was in service. When he got out he got a job as a Game Warden and eventually made Warden Inspector, the job he retired from before assuming his new job of running his own sporting camps.
As a Game Warden in Washington County Maine, "Down East," Duane would often take me with him o his patrols. Especially in the summer when he would need a bow paddle in the canoe he used to check out the fishermen. Duane would strip off his uniform shirt and hat and paddle in the rear in just his T-shirt. I would be bow paddle and concentrate and keeping a straight line so he would remain hidden until, approaching a boat full of fishermen, Duane would kick the canoe over at the last minute, flash his badge, and ask for licenses and looking at the catch. I would concentrate at not laughing at the suckers who had just got busted.
Cancer took my grandfather when I was 11. The same cancer took my Uncle Winkie at the age of 50 several years ago. The very same cancer got Uncle Jerry a couple of years ago. Smoking and hard drinking had delivered the same harsh cancer to all three of those men. Alcoholism runs like a river through my family.
There was, in truth, a fifth brother not pictured. My grandfather's youngest brother John (Binkie) was just a few years older than my Dad and they grew up together. My Dad was as close to Binkie as he was his brothers. He called Binkie his 'other brother.' Bink passed a couple of months ago.
A short time after being awash with memories of Maine and of Uncle 'Dane' today I called my mother for some now forgotten reason. She told me they had just gotten the call. Uncle Duane had succumbed to the brain and lung cancer he was recently diagnosed with.
Tonight my father is alone. The last of the Lewis men of his generation. His heart is very heavy. I cannot imagine the depth of his loss.They were all, indeed, good men. The very best. I loved them all. The best of them is my Dad. I love him most of all and his pain tonight is heavy on my heart.
I love you, Dad.
And I love you, Uncle Duane. Thank you for being the great Uncle that I remember so fondly.
(Originally posted to Multiply November 8, 2008)