Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Uncle

It’s been quiet on here the last week and I’ll tell you why. My uncle passed away from a heart attack last week. He said he was having chest pain to the point where his boss at work drove him to the hospital. In his usual way, he joked all the way there. He told the receptionist all his information. He gave the nurse hell for making him take a wheelchair back to the exam room. He said he was a little light-headed. And then, he was gone. He was going to be 62 on August 27th.

A little fast and blunt for you? That’s how we’re feeling. My family has spent the last week living upside-down. I almost couldn’t bring myself to write about this. My mom is going to read this at one point and it will make her cry. I’m already sad that she’s sad about Grandma. But I also think, though we know we can cry because it’s okay to, we often don’t let the tears come when really what we need is just a good cry. So I’m going to share some memories about my uncle. I need to remember. I need to write it out. I need to cry again.

I have no recollection of when I first remember knowing my uncle. He always was there. He was already back from serving in Vietnam when I was born and I truly can’t remember him before both my sister and brother were born. I remember Grandma once showed me a picture of him, his service picture. He was young, had a full head of short cut hair and no beard. The picture looked nothing like the uncle I knew. Grandma said he often had nightmares about his time in Vietnam. I didn’t like that. Kids had nightmares, not uncles.

He was a bachelor his whole life and lived with his parents until Grandpa died and Grandma moved into town. He worked as a mechanic, rode a motorcycle to work, came home to help Grandpa farm and his hands were always dirty. They were stained dirty. Grime and grease were permanently embedded into the cracks and creases of his giant hands. He washed them with Lava soap, but nothing got them clean.

He had a container of cold water always in the refrigerator that Grandma kept especially for him. Us kids coveted that water because it was always cold and didn’t taste as bad as the well water that came from the tap. We would sneak drinks from it during the day while he was at work.

After supper, he’d smoke a pipe. First he’d set himself in the big chair next to the bathroom door. Then he’d pick up his pipe and tap out the old tobacco (I guess, but I never learned the exact intricacies of pipe smoking.) into a round, red, metal container he kept on the stand beside his chair. Pretty soon blue smoke would come wafting through the living room as we watched some game show or other show like Hill Street Blues. I’d sneak past him on the way to the bathroom.

My uncle liked Barq’s root beer and Cracker Jacks. One afternoon I asked Grandma if I could have some and she said yes. Well, when my uncle got home, he somehow knew that some had been eaten and he bellowed out, “Who’s been into my Cracker Jacks and root beer?!” I dared not admit that it was me, but instead ran straight up to my room and cried. Grandma later found me, consoled me that my uncle was just teasing and coaxed me back downstairs. I’m sure she also gave my uncle a scolding for scaring me.

Once when I complained at the dinner table (that would be lunch) about what was to eat he said to me, “If you don’t like it, go fix your own dinner!” I liked it after that.

Quite frankly, my uncle scared me to death. He was a big man. He was gruff. And he didn’t play with little girls.

Bob with AudreyBob with Ben and ObiBob with Luke

And so, when all of his great-nieces and nephews were born, we shoved them into his arms. Audrey was first and his great hands nearly swallowed her up. He never knew what to do with those tiny babies except to say unenthusiastically, “Great, another one.” But as they got older, they softened him. Hardly a one was scared of him, save Ariana. She would shut her eyes tight as she walked past him because she didn’t want to see him. One day though, she decided she was four years old and she wasn’t going to be afraid of him anymore! 

My uncle never stopped giving me grief. He called me “Martha” because I liked things just so and fancy food. And after hearing from my mom about my obsession with The Pioneer Woman, he had another name for me but it never really stuck.

My uncle was always there. I don’t ever remember a time he wasn’t. I will miss him terribly. But he is always in my heart as my uncle.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for your family's loss :( Great memories are forever yours to keep! I'm glad my parents were able to make it to his funeral.



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