Friday, April 4, 2014

A Moment for a Birthday

Does everyone have those relatives they wish they’d gotten to know better?  I suspect that’s a yes, but maybe there are some people out there who are lucky enough to be able to say “no.”

Tom relaxing Today was my Uncle Tom’s birthday.  I don’t know how old he would have been, but I know he would have been having a great time.  He was always in a good mood, at least always in a good mood whenever I saw him.  That could have something to do with the fact that I always saw him at fun family gatherings, holidays, birthday parties, swimming parties at Grandma and Grandpa’s. 

As a child, I think I was afraid of him.  He seemed like a huge giant to me and his big bushy beard and tattoos made him look like he’d walked right out of one of my fairy tale books.  But he was super nice beneath all the fuzz and his hearty laugh would fill the room.

When I was young, he would let me sit near him at the Sheepshead table and kibitz to me about what everyone was doing and how to play the game.  When I was older, we would toast with our glasses of Jack Daniels.  One of my strongest memories of Uncle Tom is from my going away party before I went to Zambia.  We had a very well-stocked bar that night and my book from bartending.  Among the bottles in that well-stocked bar was a tall bottle of Galliano.  “What are we supposed to do with this?”  “Make Harvey Wallbangers!”  Uncle Tom was thrilled; it’d been ages since he’d had a Harvey Wallbanger and it reminded him of when he was in the Navy.

I think about that a lot these days.  Several of my younger cousins are in the Navy now.  I wish Uncle Tom were still around so they could all share stories together, connect.

For me, I feel like we lost him just as I was getting old enough to actually know him as a person instead of just my aunt’s husband or my cousins’ dad.  Now he’s watching down on them and his granddaughters, and I bet sometimes, he’s out there on the lawn, too, laughing as the girls roll down the hill.


Sara Malchow said...

Beautifully written! From someone who was lucky enough to know him well, thank you! !

Auntie Mary said...

Very well written. I know a lot of us were thinking of him and missing him last night. Thanks for sharing!