For Jack Sigler, 1934-2014

Jack Sigler and his sister Mary Ann
Jack Sigler and his sister Mary Ann

 

Dear Jack,

I got 2 years sober June 23. Next month. I wish you could have been here for that. It’s probably not very important to you, but it would have meant a lot to me. But then again, we do share the Sigler gene of loving history. It would have been nice to be able prove to you and everybody else that I’m in this thing to win it by ceremonially hitting the day with you there to see it.

I just Googled Amos Jackson Sigler. Turns out he was born in 1851 the son of George Washington Sigler. Poetic. I don’t know if you remember but I got the wild hair up by butt one day when I was doing that fellowship at the Newbury Library (Y’know, the children’s book award folks) when I lived in Chicago and I discovered that the name Jackson Sigler goes back at least to him. So that would make you the 3rd or 4th generation of Jackson Siglers. I brought in the 5th generation and Dave’s son Jake makes 6. Who knows, I may still have my own son and I’ll insist that there is a Jackson in his name somewhere just for insurance purposes.

My friends in the Facebook creative group I’m in encouraged me to write something about you. My friend Dan kind of led the way telling me that I should lend my creativity to a sort remembrance of you. Dan is in recovery with me and when we discovered we were both in the group together and we were both in recovery, well, the bond was pretty well solidified, even if he had been a jerk. But it turns out I like him a lot and he’s been one of my biggest cheerleaders. You’d like him, he’s a smart fella. I mean, not Sigler smart, but he can hold his own, know what I mean? The friends in the Open Group for Bedlam Farm are definitely of the breed of people you would call “some of my best friends I’ve never met.” It was started by a guy whose books I had been reading for awhile, then I looked him up on FB, started following his blog and he invited me to join the group. I was pretty much because those folks and that group that I started my blog. Hard to turn down an instant audience, you know? But some of the compliments you’ve written in the threads of the blog posts always make me smile. You’re just good people, Jack.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about you. My mom gave me a jump drive that has the emails and other correspondance she collected when I was sick. True to form, I only found one you wrote. This is it :

Bob,

Despite my (unusual) inability to express myself very well and my reluctance (stupid, I know) to talk about other peoples’ problems, I just couldn’t let this one go by.

 

I have cheered with each report of Andy’s amazing improvement, kept him steadily in my prayers, and look forward to the next news.

 

“And then you leave and think…Oh, F—k.” (We history scholars are not beyond a bit of creative editing of original sources). How will it end? Life never does, it goes on and on until the Lord decides it is time to close the universe down. How will Andy’s trials end? This has been very much on my mind, as well, but no one knows. We only know that he has made amazing progress, that he is doing his very best, and that a very large cheering section – natural and supernatural – has assembled for him.

 

And how will yours end? Years ago, I read somewhere that “our children are hostages to fate,” and I have found that consistently true (though in Andy’s case, it looked like the Fates might have been wearing Al-Qaeda masks). Therefore, in one sense, it will never end – just change the issues, hopefully for somewhat easier ones, as long as you live. To survive that, I have found, takes prayer, a one-day-at-a-time mindset, and a glass of wine in the evening.

 

But every now and then it helps to blow off steam without involving either the angels or your wife. In that case, send me whatever rant you wish via email.

 

I love you, and my prayers for David are linked to mine for you and Jean.

Jack

 

I remember busting down crying when I read that, much as I am right now. And trust me, the irony of you using a tried-and-true AA saying is not lost on me. That thing you said, “Therefore, in one sense, it will never end – just change the issues, hopefully for somewhat easier ones, as long as you live.” Well, it did change for me Jack, in ways I’d never dreamed possible, although not without bottoming out first. But really, it couldn’t have been any other way. And I’m really happy you were there to see it. I read that email and I remember thinking “God, that’s the big brother talking to the little brother” even though you and Da were like 70 and 58 when you wrote it. And I remember calling my brother the day I first read that email, just like I called him today. If I have anything to say about it, me and Dave will still be sending each other emails when we’re in our 70s. My Da is my Da and I think, and this is just me, that he probably looks up to you the same way I look up to Dave. If you are lucky enough to have it, the bond between brothers can transcend almost anything. I mean Spielberg and Ambrose wrote an entire miniseries about the bond between “brothers.” And as you know, Ambrose wrote the seminal book about Crazy Horse and Custer. More on that subject in a minute.

My memories of you are kind of sporatic, just a quick visit a couple times year. I don’t know if Mom and Da still have it, but I imagine the photo of Da and you grilling out in the snow in April is somewhere. That’s definitely something that at least kind of runs in the family, the little brother’s need to impress the big brother. That or you and my Da just didn’t give a shit that it was snowing because dammit, you were gonna have Omaha Steaks grilled in Omaha come hell or high water (which is kinda bullshit anyway because everybody knows the best steaks in Omaha come from Wohlner’s). Probably a little of both.

I decided when I wrote this that I wanted to include something from the trip to the Little Bighorn, the final showdown between Crazy Horse and Custer, we made all those years ago. That email cousin Trish sent out about that trip was rife with memories, but I have one that no one else has and which I will always cherish. When my Da and I were headed back to Omaha, he shared a story with me. Remember the morning after we went to the battlefield, you were riding in the car with Da to go to breakfast with the rest of the gang? When we went to the battlefield the day before, you could only view the slope that led away from the ridge where the battle happened from the ridge itself. There was a little dilapidated house and a corral with one horse down in the valley where the Indians started coming up the ridge. It’s also where the battle started and there was something you wanted to see in that area, I forget what. Chances are pretty good you just wanted to see the battlefield from every angle (I remember seeing photos of you and Da at the battlefield of Waterloo. That one I could have, and did, easily miss. I know nothing about Napoleon, other than I think he tried to make a run on Moscow as winter approached. Which as you well know is just stupid. I mean seriously, if I ever try to take over the world, I’m not going near Russia until, like, July.) Anyway, approaching the Little Bighorn from that direction would have probably required using some of your wicked diplomacy skills to persuade the owner of the property to let you root around their yard. But you declined. The next morning when you were in the car, my Da said “Y’know if you wanted to go and try and see the valley today, we should have done it before everybody else was up and ready to go …”

To which you quickly replied, “I know! I know!” so disappointed in yourself for not having done so. That story will probably always be my favorite and most distinct memory of you. Not because I was there, but because I can completely imagine you when you said it. That incredibly stoic, slightly twitchy guy who talked in that gravelly voice as though you had just gone through a pack of Luckies. And in every photo I’ve ever seen, you have your trademark grin. I’m certainly going to miss that grin.

One of the things I’m gonna miss the most about you is your tenacity, something you definitely passed on to your namesake. I remember a FB post I wrote about losing 20 pounds and you jokingly asked how I did that. I mean, seriously Jack, at the time, you were pushing 80. Kinda like me with the meningitis. God said “Take that!” and you and I said, “What else you got.” Because far be it from God to tell me what I can and can’t do, right? No, you went out exactly how I imagined you would, on your own terms. Y’know, in case the Universe didn’t get the memo that Jack Sigler will go when Jack Sigler is goddamn good and ready to go.

There, with the grace of God and you looking over His shoulder to make sure He’s doing it right, go I. I’m not gonna get all Hallmark card on you. That just wasn’t your way. But know that I’ve thought of you often in my life, wondered how you were, and would jump at the chance to come over to Mom’s house even if you were just going to be in town for a night. And when I hit that 2 year anniversary, I hope that you are somewhere looking down and smiling. Actually, that’s not true. I hope you are pulling Napoleon aside and telling him everything he should have done.

God knows you could.

One thought on “For Jack Sigler, 1934-2014

  1. Andy – This is a beautiful eulogy to our wonderful and wise uncle. I will miss him terribly. Love and hugs, Trish

    Like

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