Rest in Peace, Elwin Cox
My Aunt Betty and Uncle Elwin always had the family that the rest of us wanted to be in. They had three kids, Little Bobby, Lisa and Gina. Bobby and Lisa were probably at least ten years older than I was, but Gina was adopted at the same time I was, and was about two years younger than me. Every year we went over to their place for Christmas dinner, and one of the great things about it was all the cool stuff that the kids got for Christmas. Whatever toys were cutting edge that year, Bobby, Lisa and Gina got them. Car racing sets, Pong, air hockey. It was a cornucopia of stuff that all of us cousins could play with too when we were there.
Elwin was a fisherman, following in the footsteps of his father. He fished halibut and cod, and made a pretty good living out of what was undoubtedly harsh work. He fished off California at first, but also for many years he fished off Alaska, using a second home in Washington as a home port. Even though their heart was in Washington, he and Aunt Betty would make the trip down to my hometown of Fort Bragg in California to spend the winter, though summers were reserved for the beautiful Olympic peninsula in Washington.
As my mom says, Elwin was a giant presence. He was kind and giving to everyone. Even when you disagreed with him, you couldn't help but admire him for his willingness to share his table and generosity with family, friends, and all the people his sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and grandkids brought home with them. Everyone knew it was okay, because Uncle Elwin and Aunt Betty would make everyone feel at home.
The Cox's were a card playing family, and Uncle Elwin excelled at poker. Every holiday, after dinner and dessert the card table was brought out. The most memorable poker battles would take place there among the family -- and the most serious card players were my mom and Uncle Elwin. Uncle Elwin, when he was on a tear, was practically unbeatable. This luck also extended to when he visited casinos. I don't know how many times I heard of Uncle Elwin and Aunt Betty winning a couple of thousand dollars after a night at the casino. It was uncanny.
Certainly there were hard times in the family. When my family went through some difficulties when we were younger because of my father's drinking problems, Uncle Elwin and his son Bobby showed up at our house to talk to all of us and try to get us to resolve our problems. I didn't agree with what they were telling us, and I still don't agree with their advice at the time, but the fact remains that it was Elwin's concern for people he loved that motivated him to make the trip. Later on, Gina found a wonderful woman to spend her life with. This was very, very difficult for Elwin and Betty, but again, generosity of spirit, kindness and love for their daughter allowed them to accept Gina's partner as one of the family.
Elwin's legacy is three accomplished and giving children, and a boatload of grandchildren who have all in their own ways made Elwin as proud as he could be. I'm sure that if Elwin left this life with any regrets, it was regret that he would not be able to spend more time with his family. Other than that, I think that after a lifetime of hard work and generosity to others, that he could look back on his life and be satisfied with what he has accomplished.
For me, well, my favorite Uncle Elwin moment came about a year and a half ago. I went home for Christmas 2005. We all went over to Betty and Elwin's just as we had every year. I am working toward a Ph.d, and was surprised when, as we gathered around Elwin and Betty's Christmas table, Elwin asked me to say the Christmas blessing. Usually the Christmas blessing is reserved for someone who is celebrating something special or has distinguished themselves. By asking me, Elwin was saying "We as a family are proud of you and what you have done, Michael." And to tell you the truth, even though I hadn't finished my Ph.d yet, I was very proud at that moment to be a member of that family.
So, Uncle Elwin, rest in peace. You too have a lot to be proud of, and though we will miss you, you'll always live on in and through your family.