IMAGE: Jerry (left), Amanda (center), and other family members or guests at Al’s and Melissa’s wedding, last year in California. (Photo taken by the studio contracted by the bride and groom).
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, tells us the translation of a line in a Scot poem by Robert Burns, “To a Mouse.” Those words fit well in this story about my brother-in-law Gerald McKelvey, a fine gentleman of Irish ancestry who loved poetry and loved to write. At around two o’clock in the morning, on the second of July, Jerry, as he was called by all of us, pushed the door that took him into the ever after. He was seventy-seven years old.
He had a stroke while bathing early last Friday, June 30th. He and my sister Amanda were getting ready to travel from their home in Manteca, in northern California, to a place north of L.A., to hook up with family. It didn’t happen. That’s how it is sometimes; the specter of death knocks at the door when we least expect it and throws a monkey wrench into the best-laid plans.
Hard to believe. He’s gone. Won’t see him again or listen to his loud, but gentle laugh or partake with him any more in those joyous moments we once savored, but often took for granted. He won’t be around anymore. Tough to understand.
On the other hand, Jerry will be remembered for lots of good things. He lived life to the fullest. Amanda and Jerry had fun. They traveled, visited family, their kids, went here, went there, and used their home as a recurring rendezvous for all of us. For the ones on the Mexican side, our mother’s offspring, other relatives, and for friends. We went to that home often to gather, to eat and to have fun. Jerry was okay with all those festive occasions. If it got too loud, he just turned off his hearing aid and went about doing his things. Loud talk problem solved.
By the way, when all of us get together, we’re loud. Everyone talks at the same time, too. We’re Mexicans, you know. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Jerry will also be remembered for amusing peculiarities and over time we learned to appreciate his individuality. He was no cowboy, but he wore a cowboy hat. The last one was black. Western wear was his thing, that’s for sure: big buckle, studded shirt, bolo tie. He was also no Native American, but he loved to display Native American art at home. He loved patriotic stuff too: displaying Old Glory on appropriate occasions, the American eagle in bronze, and other objects that reminded those present of the nation’s patriotic heritage.
He and Amanda met in San Diego sometime in the late 1980s and had been married for more than twenty years. They both had made the trip to the altar once before and had kids from those relationships. But they both loved each other’s children. In my book, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Losing Jerry, I’m sure, it’s going to be tough on Amanda. It’s always that way, I believe, when you lose someone you love, the person with whom you shared your life. I feel for her and I’m wishing her the best. In my heart, though, I know she’ll be okay. Besides, she’s tough as nails, just like our mother was, and has a whole bunch of caring people by her side, helping her overcome her grief.
Our family and others tied to us, let me add, have a way with love and caring. We feel the pain, but at the same time know that the show must go on and that we all must learn to overcome the trials and tribulations that we find along the way, as we travel on the journey of life. But, we must also have fun.
That’s what Jerry did. He lived, loved, had fun and had a hell of a ride. Hope to see you again, cowboy.
AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez