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Joe Jack

Joe Jack

Автором Fredric Brewer

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Joe Jack

Автором Fredric Brewer

191 pages
3 hours
May 11, 2017


A true story about the adventures of a man when he flies to Juneau, Alaska to care for his uncle who is battling cancer. Not knowing what to expect or if he was prepared, Fredric Brewer travels to this northern city tucked away within towering mountain ranges and frigid Pacific waters.

Once he touches down, he witnesses the activity and majestic beauty of the region that make it so unique. He does his best to keep his uncle comfortable while learning a little more about the family member who was always a mystery to him growing up. During his stay, he learns more about the man, the state and the disease.

Learn more at JoeJackBook.com

A portion of the profits from this book will be donated to Gateway Cancer Research.Gateway for Cancer Research is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to funding innovative cancer clinical trials that help people living with cancer to feel better, live longer and conquer cancer TODAY! Go to GatewayCR.org for more information.
May 11, 2017

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Joe Jack - Fredric Brewer

Joe Jack

Joe Jack

Fredric Brewer

Copyright © 2017 Fredric Brewer

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission of both publisher and author.  Unauthorized reproduction of any part is illegal and is punishable by law.

ISBN: 978-1-365-49367-6

A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated Gateway for Cancer Research.  They are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to funding innovative cancer research that helps people living with cancer to feel better, live longer and conquer cancer TODAY! Thanks to generous underwriting, 99 cents of every dollar Gateway receives directly funds Phase I and Phase II cancer clinical trials at leading research institutions across the country and abroad. Since 1991, Gateway has supported more than 150 clinical trials and funded millions in breakthrough research. Get involved today by visiting GatewayCR.org.

Cover by Leslie Brewer



I would like to dedicate this book to a few individuals.

The first are my parents and family.  My parents were part of the Greatest Generation that worked hard after the war to raise six children.  They supported me through my ups and downs and were always there when I needed them.  My brothers and sisters were also a huge part in adding stability to my life.  Growing up fifth in a family of six, I thought it was normal having a large and extended family.  I assumed everyone had a bunch of sisters (I had four) and brothers (one). There were plenty of advantages to having a sizeable family including festive parties and always having someone to turn to for advice.  The downside was the house was a little crowded at times, but for the most part, it never bother anyone since we didn’t know it any other way.

The other person I would like to thank is my first English professor at the University of Wisconsin.  He doesn’t know my name and probably doesn’t remember much of our interaction.  The reason why he had such an impact is that he completely changed the course of my education and professional career.  If he remembers me, he probably knows that he helped, but he doesn’t know how much. 

Like many students, my major changed a few times during college.  It started in pre-med and then moved to communications.  It wasn’t until my last year in school that I decided to pursue an advertising career.  The university didn’t offer a degree in advertising or marketing, so I searched for an alternative.  After mulling a few options, I decided an English major would provide a solid writing base for my education as well my marketing career following school.  To graduate in a year, I loaded my schedule with English classes to fulfill all my requirements.  I wasn’t thrilled with being in this major, but I thought I would enjoy the challenge.

My first class was 17th Century Writers.  Sitting in the last row, I tried to blend in as well as possible since I was a little overwhelmed being in a new environment, surrounded by students that appeared a lot smarter than me.  Listening to the first lecture with about 30 other students, I tried to show interest, but my mind raced back and forth between concentrating on the lecture and wondering if I was in the right place.  I thought I would make it through the first day without any major challenges but at the end of the lesson the professor gave us an assignment.  We were to review a poem that he had chosen and write a few sentences about the meaning.  Not being a huge fan of poetry, I knew it would be a challenge to express my feelings about something that was completely unknown to me.  Regardless, that night I sat down and wrote to the best of my ability on what I thought the verse meant.  I knew my reflections were basic, but I thought it was enough to get me through until the next assignment.

My professor handed back papers a couple days later and I cringed anticipating what grade would appear at the top of my assignment.  To my shock, there was no grade; there was only a handwritten message that read, See me after class.  My heart stopped. I concluded that my professor thought my writing was so poor, that not only was it not worth grading, he didn’t think I was competent enough to sit in his class. 

After the lesson ended and all the students exited, I sheepishly stepped to the front of the class to receive my verdict.  I had never met this professor before, and I didn’t expect to interact with him personally so soon.  Thoughts raced through my head.  Would he tell me I wasn’t a strong enough student to take his class?  Was my career as an English major already over after one week? 

Hi, I received my assignment and you wrote that I was to see you after class. 

He looked at me concerned and replied, You don’t feel comfortable writing, do you? 

I looked down in defeat as I shook my head and replied, No, I just changed my major to English and I don’t have much writing experience.  I was expecting him to say that I should consider another class or major but instead he said, If you’re interested, I will teach you how to write.  You can come to my office once a week and I can show you ways to improve. 

I was shocked!  I was expecting him to push me in another direction and instead he wanted to take me under his tutelage!  I always heard how big universities don’t provide students individual attention and that many of these students fall through the cracks.  Now one of the top professors at the University of Wisconsin was going to take an hour out of his day each week to ensure I would become a better writer.  I was floored by his offer and enthusiastically accepted.

So, for the next two months, I would enter his office intimidated, but sit down and slowly listen as to how to improve my writing.  Each week, I would have an assignment, and every time he would explain how sentences and paragraphs were properly constructed.  I had thoughts of not being up to the challenge, but each week I steadily improved and after a couple months he was satisfied with my progress.  On the last day he said, I’ve done this before for other students and sometimes there wasn’t any advancement.  You have definitely improved so I’m delighted that you benefited from my help. 

I thanked him for all his support and teachings and completed his class just like all of the other students.  I ended up with an average grade, but I was just thrilled to complete it and improve myself along the way.  What he taught me carried over to my other classes.  Instead of feeling incompetent, I felt like I could at least compete.  He helped so much that I started to enjoy all my other courses.  I went from someone who dreaded being in English class to someone who would have entertained the thought of becoming an English teacher.  In the end, I completed my degree and graduated at the end of the year. 

Who knows what would have become of me if I had not received the extra attention from my professor.  Would I have changed my major again and struggled to finish college?  I’m not sure, but his small effort changed my life.  I went on to work at an agency in downtown Chicago and eventually opened my own advertising business.  I have not talked to that professor since leaving school but I always wanted to thank him for his training.  He probably forgot about me and just assumed I graduated and moved on.  What he probably didn’t realize was how profound an impact he made on me.  Meeting with him for one hour a week empowered me with skills that lasted a lifetime. 

Teachers probably don’t realize how much they influence an individual’s life.  They go to work every day hoping that the students will learn something that day.  They rarely hear any thanks from their current or past students.  They usually don’t realize how much of a lasting impression they make.  I don’t know if my professor will be impressed with this book, but this dedication is one small way of thanking him.


Day One — The Journey

Mothers take care of you long after you leave home; it’s their nature.  You can be in the room next door, or halfway around the world, and they still think about your well-being.  This was my first thought when I heard my mom’s voice on the other end of the phone while in my downtown Chicago home. 

Hi Fred, I know this is a short notice, but are you able to take off for a couple weeks and take care of Uncle Joe? my mother inquired in a weak voice.  She was usually an energetic and upbeat person so I was not used to hearing this tone.  It was also not the question I was expecting to hear. 

Joe’s not doing well? I replied.

No, I guess he doesn’t have much time left.

She had never mentioned attending to Joe previously so the question threw me a little off guard.  She was not one to ask for favors, but I could tell there was some emotion behind the question and a part of me didn’t want to let her down.  Her request didn’t come as a complete surprise since I knew my seventy-year-old uncle had been battling prostate cancer the last five years and had steadily worsened over the past few months. 

Doctors only give him a couple weeks, she continued. The hospice is currently at his home attending to his medical needs but Joe specifically requested a family member be there throughout the day and night.  This was a curious wish considering Joe rarely asked for anything and usually preferred a little distance between himself and the family. 

It took me a few seconds to respond to my mother’s question.  Not because I didn’t want to help.  Our family was always there for each other during difficult times and I felt compelled to do my part.  I guess the reason for the slight pause was because Joe lived in Juneau, Alaska and I didn’t feel like the most qualified person to care for a dying man thousands of miles away from my home in Chicago.  It also wasn’t like me to jump on a plane on a moment’s notice.  But it did make sense since I was the only family member to work from home and I had the most flexible schedule.  All I needed was my laptop and an Internet connection and I could work from anywhere in the world. 

I finally responded to my mother’s question with a firm answer.  I would be happy to help.  When do I need to fly out? 

As soon as possible, she replied.   When can you leave?

I quickly tried to remember my schedule for the coming week but realized it wouldn’t take long to finish up some loose ends before departing.  How about Friday, two days from now.

That will work fine. She said in a relieved voice.  I’ll let Suparna know and she’ll make the reservations.

I hung up the phone and a mix of emotions came over me.  A part of me was excited to be traveling to Alaska and to experience another part of the world, but the other side was remorseful knowing that Joe was ill and nearing his end.

Suparna reached out to me later that day to make arrangements for my arrival.  She was Joe’s girlfriend for the past thirty years and they shared a home in Juneau for most of that time.  She had been caring for him the last few months but now had to leave to attend to another commitment out of state.  She was an extremely sweet and charismatic woman but it was unfortunate having our first phone conservation under these circumstances.

Hi Fred!  How are you? Suparna started out with an upbeat voice.

I’m great, I responded, but saddened to hear about Joe.

Yes, he hasn’t been doing well lately, she responded in a more melancholy tone.  That’s why it’s so nice that you’re able to come to Juneau to help out.

Don’t think anything of it.  The family is always here to help. 

What day are you arriving? she inquired.

I’m leaving in two days.

That’s perfect, she replied.  That’s the day before I leave and it will give us a chance to cover all of the caretaking duties while I’m here.

Having you there for a day will help. I said relieved.  I’ve never taken care of someone on my own, so it would really help having you there while learning the system. 

Great!  I’ll make the flight arrangements and email you all the details.  Thank you again for helping out. 

No problem, I responded.  I’m just glad I can be there for Joe.

The two days of preparation went faster than expected.  It didn’t take long before I was sitting on a plane and waiting for takeoff on a ten-hour excursion west.  As I awaited my flight, thoughts continued to run through my head regarding what would happen during my almost two-week duration away.  What kind of condition was Joe in?  Was he able to walk or eat?  How much attention would he need while there?  What was Alaska like?  Then, the biggest question running through my head was wondering why he wanted a family member to be there.  Uncle Joe had always been a bit of a mystery to me growing up.  He had lived in Juneau for most of his life and he would only visit family in the Milwaukee area every four or five years.  He was also thirty years older than me, so when I was young, he usually only talked with the adults.  Another reason for Joe’s mystique was the fact that family rarely talked much about his job or past events.  I knew he was a very talented jazz drummer and played with many big-name musicians over the years, but my parents never elaborated more.  The one thing I did know was that if Joe was coming into town, there was going to be excitement.  He was always the center of attention and those around him would feed off his enthusiasm.  He had a passion for life and it usually poured out in conversations.  Now that he didn’t have much time left, was there something he wanted to say to family before passing?  The family knew so little about his past life.  Was there some dark secret that he wanted to share, or did he just want a family member there to add some comfort to his last days?  I’ve heard there were two types of people in Alaska: those who were born there and those who were escaping from something.  The family knew he was there for the latter. 

I tried not to think about it too much and just reclined in my seat to get comfortable.  It was a long ride to Juneau and my time there would provide us plenty of time to find answers.

There were no direct flights to Juneau so flying meant a stopover in Seattle.   As we descended into this northwest city, the aircraft floated below the cloud-line and the new perspective revealed overhead views of downtown and the surrounding area.  It was a gray day but it didn’t take away from the beauty of the thick pines, rolling landscape and waterways.  We continued speeding directly over the city and passed over the baseball and football stadiums that lined the water’s edge.  The combination of architecture and mountainous backdrop made for a picturesque skyline.  Seattle is a beautiful setting.  I had the pleasure of visiting this unique city a few years earlier and was able to appreciate its combination of natural beauty and culture.  The space needle was the symbol of the city but by far the most scenic views were the surrounding water, rolling hills and distant mountains.

We landed and there was a soft pattering of rain hitting the side of the aircraft.  Even though it was overcast and thick with menacing clouds, it was a relief to finally see some green grass and evergreens.  It was early March, and Chicago, along with most of the Midwest was still covered with brown grass and bare trees.  You would think lush grass would not be that exciting, but

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