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Lamar

This is not the post I was going to write today but I feel compelled to write it anyway.

Lamar was my brother-in-law. I first met him around 1980, which was about two years after I married. Lamar and Sylvia (she’s my sister-in-law) began dating long distance. She lived in Los Angeles and he lived in Berkeley. They were both in graduate programs, she at UCLA and he at UC Berkeley. Eventually, he finished his program and moved to Los Angeles where he became not only a part of Sylvia’s life but a part of all of our lives, including mine and eventually, my kids.

Lamar was from Maryland, if I remember correctly. He was raised with southern ideals and manners and thinking. Lamar, before any of us knew him, was in the Peace Corps and often spoke of the things he learned and the things he did in Africa as part of his stint with the Peace Corps. After that, he went back to school and studied architecture, finally becoming an architect which was a major feat as the road to becoming an architect is a long one, but he stuck with it and did it.

He had a lot of nicknames in the family, mostly because my ex-husband’s family is into giving people silly, and often mean nicknames. For example, when his arm was in a sling because of a shoulder injury, he became Lame Arm instead of Lamar. Ha ha. But the one that stuck the most was Space Case because he would often “zone out” during conversations. We would all be discussing something and one of us would turn to ask him a question or get input from him and he was “gone” to the point where we would have to call his name several times, usually ending with “Earth to Lamar. Come in Lamar.”

He was inventive, curious, handy, a problem solver, laid back, and supportive. As spouses of a brother and sister in that family, we often were the outsiders so Lamar and I stuck together. And, more than once, we also discreetly exchanged eye rolls when “they” were being “too Martinez.” He was my pal when we were all together. Later in life, we were both diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes) and so we had that in common and shared some tips and experiences that non-diabetics would not be able to understand.

Many years later came my divorce and their move across the county so we saw each other less often. I visited with them in D.C. twice and they were at my daughter’s college graduation in Baltimore so our contact was limited but when we saw each other we slipped into the same “us” and “them” routine.

Then came word that he had cancer and was starting chemo. That was in late July. Then three weeks ago came word that the chemo was not working and that the doctors had told them there was nothing else they could do. There were no other treatments for his type of cancer. A few days ago came word that his death was imminent, he had just a few days left. This morning, word came that he had passed. The only positive thing to hold on to is that he was medicated and was never in any pain. He was comfortable. He could understand everything but could not speak. And his death was peaceful.

I’m shaking. That part of the family is too far for me to get to. I wish I could be there with them to support each other and to share some favorite Lamar moments but it’s not possible. So here I am, sharing Lamar with you; sharing my pain. And it hits a bit harder because he was diagnosed the same week that my doctor told me I had cancer and had only three to five months. Of course, he was wrong as it turned out and I do not have cancer. But Lamar did. And I keep thinking that it could be me. I’m glad it isn’t but I also feel a little bit guilty.

I will miss Lamar greatly.

 

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