I have two paternal uncles, Eddie and Willie. We, my eight siblings and I, addressed them as Unca Eddie and Unca Junior. Other first cousins addressed them as Unca Eca Lee and Unca Willie. These two were sweet charmers, loud talkers, hilarious jousters, scary storytellers and, generally, mind-boggling conversationalist.
We adored them, my siblings and I. And they us.
Whenever they came around with their own brood, my thick patch of cousins from Unca Eddie and Aunt Judy’s love nest, and my slim sip of tea from Unca Junior and NeeNee, which summed up to two boys, we had one unforgettable time filled with laughter, practical jokes, back riding, wrestling, loud talking, recapping the whippings we received from brothers who believed in sparing the rod and spoiling the child and forays into the unknown, which could be translated “places up or down the street or on another block” or, simply put, places we were forbidden to go whenever the cousins came to visit.
Stair-steps, several of us arrived in the same year, behind or before the others. My twin brother Claude and I “mated” with my lovely cousin Sophie, Unca Eddie’s only girl. Diane, my oldest sister, “mated” with Eddie Junior. And my knee-baby sister, (for those outside of the Southern milieu) the baby ahead of the last baby, “mated” with Dougie, or Douglas Moss, his government name.
They were the best of friends, beloved pals. And when their paths led to Tuskegee Institute, they became closer, though Dougie was studious and Glenda wasn’t. They hung out on campus together. They chatted wide and deep. They laughed until they went in search of their breath. If I’m not mistaken, Glenda said they’d begun calling themselves twins, like I was Claude or “Bubba’s” twin. In later years, Doug or Dougie’s two, charming children would even address her as Auntie Glenda.
It was only natural that Glenda Pearl would be asked to share the capstone of their great times together at Dougie’s funeral. Yes, he was my first FIRST COUSIN to transition. And it’s true a few have passed as infants, but we didn’t know them cousin-intimate as we knew Dougie.
My heart bled. We’d all played together. Grew up alongside the other. Met the wife and children when they walked onto the stage of his life…and now he was gone. It was unbelievable.
Dougie was sharp, quiet, sensible, intelligent, caring, gentle, positive and humorous. He had what it took to command a six-figure profession. An award-winning father and commendable provider, he nurtured his little crew with ultimate respect and parental love. He was his family’s hero. When I checked into Facebook yesterday, I discovered the most beautiful commemoration and testament to his presence in the world. His baby brother, now a renown pastor and giant of a man, was describing what Doug meant to him.
As I read how much Dante loved his BIG BROTHER Doug, my heart bowed to memory, and I stilled myself to better appreciate the blessing of Dougie, our childhood and the last time I saw him alive as he bravely faced a fatal illness, while visiting with my siblings and me in his home. Later, from his beautiful, bereaved wife, I’d learn he arranged all the details of his Home-going, right down to his suit and coffin.
At his funeral, he packed a huge Pittsburgh church and was honored with a day in his name by the city’s elected official for the life of service he lived. I love him, for he is my hero as well.
And we called him Dougie…