Saturday, January 12, 2013

In Which I Eulogize My Brother

"Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity.”  – John Milton

Christmas Eve 2012. 

Ed Turi, 73, was found in his apartment that morning and pronounced dead at 11:45 am.  He was found by his friend Scott.  The Death Certificate states he died of cardio-pulmonary arrest, congestive heart failure, and long term coronary artery disease.  The doctor thinks he died quickly enough to feel little or no pain.  These problems were far more extensive than he let on to me previously.  I also think he died because of extreme stress and a sense of giving up.  His problems caught up with him, and he couldn't handle them.

I'm writing this as his brother and executor.  We lived many miles apart and rarely saw each other---but we did spend time on the telephone.

When Ed spoke to me of his health difficulties, he implied they were of relatively minor importance---despite the pain and breathing difficulties he told me he suffered.  That was like him.  Ed was very private and kept much to himself.  Too much it seems.  I think, to a certain extent, Ed was embarrassed by his ill health and other problems, and he didn’t want to talk about them.

He apologized to me as a brother and as a Turi for his legal difficulties last year.

I have many good memories of Ed.  And I'd rather dwell on them than any of his problems.  In the 1950s, Ed used to take us siblings to the Orange County Fair during an afternoon when kids were admitted free.  Ed would keep us occupied until after five when Dad and Mom would arrive and we’d have dinner at one of the Italian food tents and visit the exhibits and ride the rides.

Dad, who was a member of a local baseball team in the 1930s [the Hubbies], taught baseball to Ed.  Ed taught me.  And he taught me our sibling mainstay: flies and grounders.  [One hitter and two fielders; first fielder to get three flies or five grounders changed places with the hitter.]  We three boys played that on the St Joseph’s field---which was across the street---night after night, even to the darkness.  Ed was a Yankee fan, but I forgave him and played ball anyway.

Complicating matters were the baseballs.  Having little money to spend on such things, we made them last---wrapping the damaged and unraveling hulks with Dad’s sticky black, double-sided tape from his tool box.  So, you can imagine our difficulty with a black ball in the dark sticking to our hands all the time---but we plodded through these problems over the years with no serious injuries. 

Ed didn’t mind it, either.  He kept hitting balls over the fence into the back yards of Eldred Street homes---and then Jack and I sat and talked while Ed walked around the block to the back yard to recover the ball.  Occasionaly, he took so long we believed he had a girl friend there.

Sometimes he climbed the fence.  It just depended on his store of energy at the time.  If we absolutely needed a new ball, we searched the grass in the right field area [a steep decline] for a few days and would often find a newer one someone else lost.  Then the cycle to black-taped-remnant would start anew.

Sometimes, Ed and Jack played with Paul Cartman and Mickey Kravack.  Once it got dark, they’d congregate right across the street at the fire hydrant.

Ed had a habit of picking up little stones and hitting them in the air with a bat.  The main result was pitting marks all over the meat of the bat to go with the marks from the black tape.  But on one night, the bat missed the stone and connected with Mickey’s head.  And Ed had a Babe Ruth 33oz bat!  Mom fixed Mickey up, and the stone hitting stopped---at least at the fire hydrant talks.

During my high school years, Ed once volunteered to act as a chaperone for one of my class trips---this one to Rye Playland.  Although he was friendly with all of us on the bus ride, we didn’t see him at all during the day, which suited him and was our idea of a good chaperoning.

I knew more about Ed in those days.  He was a big fan of Brenda Lee and Doris Day, which didn’t exactly match the aloof aura he wished to project.  In recent years he added Hollie Steel, Jackie Evancho, and Celine Dione to his likes.

On the political front, he indicated he was an Independent with common sense.  And he counted among his favorite pundits and politicians: Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Michele Bachman, John Boehner and Martha MacCallum.  He was a patriotic soul who supported our troops, Fox News, and Arizona in every way.  That sound more like a Conservative.

Ed’s favorite quote was:  “I limit myself to 1 drink a day. Right now I am 5 months ahead.”  He thought it was hilarious.  His second favorite was:  "I'm going nucking futs!"  He used both as sign-offs on his emails.

He was a good poker player in our penny ante games with Vince Smith and our Uncle Bill Stevens.  And he was a worthy Pinochle opponent.  The two of us played plenty of that as well as another card game, Casino.
He taught me hearts as well. 

In recent years, Ed played poker online, usually winning.  But the stakes were more akin to penny-ante based on the winnings he told me about.

We played chess by mail when he was in the Air Force, but we never finished a game.  Procrastination on both our sides usually destroyed the games in progress.

After retiring, Ed spent a great deal of time with his son, Kevin.  They both favored baseball and NASCAR, and they traveled to many places across the Country and attended [and Kevin participated successfully in] the local Special Olympics.

Ed’s at peace now, and all his problems are behind him.  He was something of a worry wart in his later years, but he refused to follow instructions from his doctors and lawyers.  He just wouldn’t give up smoking or drinking---or anything else, though he did it mostly at home. 

We talked a lot, and he listened to my suggestions---and then often went out and did pretty much what he was going to do anyway.  I did my best, though I knew he’d possibly ignore me---in most cases, that is.  I did succeed in a few.

I think I know about how all this fits in together.  You see, Ed very much hated having to live in Middletown [NY].  The only thing keeping him here was the nearness of his son, Kevin.  Ed had a great love for his son, and Kevin returned it fivefold.  They had a strong relationship.  And I think having Ed as his father, gave Kevin more strength to deal with his personal difficulties more easily.

Ed never explained his desire to leave Middletown, but I think he wanted his last days to be somewhere not Middletown---where he grew up.  He spent so much time in Europe and other American States while in the Air Force, perhaps he just wanted to be somewhere like that again.  He also wanted more friends to be near.

As noted above, Ed and Kevin traveled to numerous places around the Country during their vacations.  Between the two, they took numerous pictures, and Ed uploaded many of them to various sites for everyone to see.

Ed rarely talked about his military career, but he did go back to the Air Force after a one-year civilian layoff, and he retired after twenty years total service between 1959 and 1980.  He served at Lackland AFB; Keesler AFB; Travis AFB; Sembach AB in Germany; Johnson Island in the Pacific; I think the Kaiserslautern Army Unit in Germany as well; and others.  He retired as a Top Sergeant, after serving as an Automatic Tracking Radar Technician and a Morse Systems Operator over the years.

I discovered Ed had earned a number of medals and honors over his 20 years:  Air Force Good Conduct Medal with 4 bronze loops; Small Arms Expert Marksmanship ribbon; Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with 2 Devices; Army Occupational Medal; and of course the National Defense Service Medal.

Considering I know he used to raise hell when out on passes to the local towns, I’m a little surprised at the Good Conduct longevity.  But, perhaps the stories I heard were wrong or exaggerated.  If Ed was honored, then Ed deserved the recognition.

When I was first ill in the 1990s, my parents helped me survive with moral and financial support.  Ed---without being asked---sent me money as well.  He helped me get through the worst time of my life, a time when my illness led to the loss of all my assets and resources.  I can thank Ed for his help in my surviving until I could start turning things around.

Ed left a modest estate because of his one mistake, albeit a major one.  And he had to sell everything of value to pay for his health and legal expenses.  But don’t count Ed out.  He left his mark by serving honorably in the United States Air Force, being a good brother, and assisting his parents and his youngest brother in their times of need. This and his help for his son all combine to make him a hero in my eyes.  He has a major place in my heart [despite his failings] along with Mom and Dad.

"His wings are gray and trailing, Azrael, Angel of Death;
And yet the souls that Azrael brings Across the dark and cold,
Look up beneath those folded wings,
And find them lined with gold.”
- Robert Gilbert Welsh

Ed will be missed very much.  And he’ll remain in the memories of many for a long time.  Good-bye Ed.  I love you.