Frankie Toohey - 1950 - 2008
You may have seen the TV news, or read online, or in the paper, about a small plane that crashed into a house in Oregon yesterday morning. A horrific event. My uncle Frankie was the passenger who rented the plane, just heading out to Klamath Falls for the day. No sooner were they off the ground than the plane went down, exploding shortly after impacting, killing five people, including three children in the house.
Frankie, like most of us, would never want to die. The thought that an accident he was involved in would take four other lives, especially children, would be unfathomable to him. He would have driven over a cliff on his way to the airport if he knew he could avoid hurting anyone else.
The interesting thing about Uncle Frankie to me is that I've only met him a couple times, and only once that I can remember. But unlike other family members whom I've seen regularly, Uncle Frankie means more to me than our meetings might indicate.
My friends who read regularly know about my dad, who has led a hard life, and with whom I've sometimes struggled, sometimes become very frustrated. My dad was the victim of some terrible abuses in his lifetime, most of which were committed against him by his own father and older brothers. His siblings always looked down at him because of the way he struggled to find his way in life, because of his faults, and because he acted like the victim of abuse often will.
But of all five of his siblings, his baby brother Frankie was his hero. No matter how down and out my father was, no matter how much he'd completely f***ed up his life from time to time, Frankie was always in his corner. As a young man, Frankie had his troubled times, sowed his oats, lived on the wild side, but he put himself together and became a very successful human being, and not just monetarily. He was bright, humorous, quick on his feet, and had a very kind heart.
In the midst of my dad's pretty dark life, Frankie was one of the brightest spots. I can hardly think of a visit, or even a conversation, when dad wouldn't bring up Frankie and talk about how great he was. I've heard story after story of the many things Frankie did to help out my dad, to support him, to strengthen his heart in bad times.
I realize I did't know Frankie as well as I wish I did, but I do know, and will always know, the Frankie who saw the best in my father when he was at his worst, who loved my father without condition, who was never at a loss for a quip or a joke or a kind word when my dad needed it.
I cried for Frankie, and for his wife, Toni, but I also cried for my father, who has lost one of the best things in his life.
After all, who wouldn't want a brother who loved you just for who you are, even when that wasn't all that pretty?
UPDATE: I think everyone is aware of this, but I don't care, it still matters. Those of us who are all blogfriends know Big Jeff Kos, who runs our friendly neighborhood Film Freaks Film Club. The Masoudi family, who lost two children in the same tragedy, are good friends of our beloved Kos and his family. This is a tragedy beyond words, and I simply hope and pray for peace and healing and everything the Masoudis (and Reimanns, of course) need to make it through this terrible ordeal. Losing any loved one is horrible, but losing a child, children, is unfathomable to me.