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James L. Mang passed away on March 8, 2010. He was 59.

We were always laughing.

The last time I talked to my Uncle Jim was in 2003. I made the careless mistake of leaving town for a wedding the exact weekend he was coming into town to take me to a University of Cincinnati football game. Those were the days before Blackberries; the days before Twitter or Facebook. Hell, those were even the days where paying per minute on your cell phone was the norm. If only Twitter had been invented then, I could have sent a quick tweet that said “sorry, I have 2 go 2 this wedding 2 show my ex-bf how over him I am.” Nice, huh.

I remember calling Jim’s hotel, leaving messages and emailing several times, but it didn’t matter. I had done something wrong. I could now take my place on the list of family members with whom he no longer wished to communicate. And it was a pretty lengthy list.

Throughout the years, I called and emailed, but I never got a response. I told him about my first magazine job; when I left that first magazine job to move to Dallas; and my continual pursuit for a subsequent magazine job once I was in Dallas. But, still, nothing. (And no magazine job, either.) Just this past Saturday, I found a letter he had written to my great Aunt Kate and it inspired me to contact him again. Then he died.

Uncle Jim and Lauren reinacting ET.

Say what you will about not going to bed angry or not waiting until it’s too late to tell someone how you feel — we all know that’s the moral to this story. Jim was a man who, as my growing-wiser-by-the-minute younger brother put it, could never swallow his pride, even as much as I think he wanted to, and let the past be the past.

Uncle Jim with baby Lauren. I'm pretty cute.

Uncle Jim with baby Lauren. I'm pretty cute.

In the hours after his passing, I worried a lot. I worried whether he felt pain. I worried whether he was happy with his life. (I shouldn’t have though. After all, Jim climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, visited Machu Picchu and traveled to Thailand.) I worried that he left this world thinking I was a bad niece. And, most of all, I worried that I never thanked him enough for everything he did for me.

So, Uncle Jim, thank you. Thank you for making me smile and laugh. To my little-girl self, you were the coolest. Thank you for watching The Wizard of Oz, probably to your dismay, over and over, then mimicking mini twisters in the air with our fingers. Thank you for dressing up as Koolaide from the South Side of Chicago and going trick-or-treating with my brother and me. I was shocked at how much candy people willingly gave a 40-year-old man. Thank you for taking me to a movie, then when it was over, taking me to another movie.

And thank you for my first laptop. I couldn’t have finished college and jump-started my writing career without it. Thank you for always caring about recycling and the Earth. Back then, “going green” didn’t exist — you cared about those things way before it was cool to care.

Uncle Jim cheering on his favorite team: USC.

Uncle Jim cheering on his favorite team: USC.

As a girl, I vaguely remember dancing around him repeating this super annoying sound. He told me that someday, when I got older, he’d run up and down the aisle at my wedding making that very same annoying sound. Too bad for him I sucked at relationships up until now.

While going through his belongings, my aunt said she came across a desk organizer with places for two pictures. In them, were pictures of my brother and me. He still loved us.

  1. Kathleen on Monday 15, 2010

    I didn’t want it to end.

  2. Pattaya on Monday 15, 2010

    Very interesting info. I was searching the web and finally I found Your blog. Regards.

  3. Jeff on Monday 15, 2010

    Very nice Lauren. Definitely makes me wish I had been able to travel back to Ohio more often during those days so we could have shared more times together.

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Amy on Monday 15, 2010

    I didn’t want it to end.

  5. Don P on Monday 15, 2010

    May ask if Jim lived in Canton Ohio in his younger days? Sure looks like an old high school friend of mine that later moved to Huntington Beach CA

    If this is still an active blog, I’d appreciate knowing.

    May he Rest in Peace …..

    ~ D

  6. Lauren on Monday 15, 2010

    Hi Don, yes Jim was from Canton and after college moved to Huntington Beach for his graduate studies. He lived there for the rest of his life. Thanks for reading; I don’t blog any longer but this is my portfolio of sorts so I track it daily. Hope this helps. Lauren

  7. Don P on Monday 15, 2010

    Thanks Lauren!

    Jim was a good baseball player way back when we were young ……. he kept us laughing a lot.

    May he rest in peace.


  8. Lauren on Monday 15, 2010

    I miss him a lot. I was actually just talking to my dad, who is Jim’s younger brother Greg. I don’t know if you remember him or not. But he asked me for your last name. He was trying to remember all the friends Jim had back in the day.

    I had no idea that uncle Jim played baseball. My dad also mentioned that he was pretty good. 🙂