On Saturday night, as the Osterhouts and Voegelins gathered to celebrate Vic and Georgie's 60th year together, Herb Carnes lay dying in a Ct. hospital. By Sunday morning he was gone. Herb, Vic and Dick (my old man) grew up together in the little village of Montgomery, NY. My Grandfather Wray was a kind of surrogate father to both Herb and Vic. Hence Uncle Herb and Uncle Vic.
Herb went to King's Point and then joined the Merchant Marines during WWII. He was an engineer on ships that travelled the globe. But that's not what I remember about him. I remember an impeccably dressed, extremely intelligent man, with a wry sense of humor and a laugh that let you know he always got it. Then in the 70's things started to go bad. Herb got divorced and moved from his nice house in Montgomery to a motel room in Georgia. At a time before everyone was medicated for everything, Herb was depressed. (As if a motel in Georgia wasn't depressing enough). Years ticked by. My mom and dad would periodically check in on him, but the reports were never good. I wrote him a couple of times and he wrote me back, but it seemed like the old Uncle Herb was gone forever.
Then, one night, about 10 years ago my parents got a call from a frantic Herb. He was delusional, scared, and reaching out for his one friend in the world. The old man told him to get on a plane. Herb stepped off the plane looking like me. He had long scraggly hair, a full beard, untied shoes and stunk to high heaven. But this was nothing compared to his mental state. As good a friend as my old man was to Herb, he's not known for his patience. Three days of stinky, crazy Herb and my father was ready to send him back south. Enter Mrs. B. My sister, Mrs. Budinski saw Herb and took over. In a matter of hours she had him in a hospital, safe and medicated. She saved Herb's life.
Uncle Herb came out of that hospital hair cut, clean shaven, in a prim yellow sweater and penny loafers. The old Uncle Herb had returned to us. It was like having a cat you thought was long dead show up meowing on the porch. From then on Mrs. B. looked after Herb like a mother hen. When the mayor of New Paltz was marrying all the gays in the area, I had the idea to ask a straight man to marry me. I proposed Herb at a family shindig. He looked at me over those wire rim glasses, shook his head, grinned ear to ear and said "Oh no, no, no Michael. I'm not that crazy." He will be sorely missed.