My favorite uncle, whom I have called “Unkie” all my life, is 89 today. Anyone who is lucky enough to have had an uncle to love and be loved by understands the gift of that relationship. He has been there for me literally since the day I was born, and has been a big part of my life ever since. Unkie, quite simply, is the perfect example of a decent, good man who has lived honestly and has been a blessing and joy to his family, friends and associates.
I remember from a very early age that he loathed spiders. Mom told me that, when they were growing up they often explored the woods nearby. He would make Mom walk ahead of him to break any possible webs along the way! Once when he was visiting us, he had just tucked me into bed with his regular bedtime admonition; “Ok, I’m putting you into your rocket ship to the moon. If it’s made of green cheese, bring me back a slice.”
As he stood up, we both noticed a big spider on the wall. Without hesitation, he took off one shoe and killed it. As young as I was, I understood how much he loved me–to face that big spider and protect me from it.
In his fifties, he got married for the first time to a wonderful woman named Dottie. She brought to the marriage three daughters, the youngest still in high school. For the first time, Unkie was a husband and father, and, as with everything else in his life, he embraced the change. He loved them all with all his heart, and stepped into his new roles with love and commitment.
Unkie was and is one of the few people I know who truly live their faith in God, and do their best to honor Him by living good and decent lives. This was never done in a showy or attention-getting manner; he is simply a good man and treats others the way he would liked to be treated.
Looking back on all the times spent together, it’s the stories and jokes I remember so well. A rather shy and retiring man, Unkie blooms when he is in a crowd. On all the bus trips he and Dottie took together, he would stand up and start telling jokes. His timing and delivery were dead-on, and he had every person literally rolling in the aisles.
One of my favorite jokes is about the nun and the airplane, which goes like this:
A young nun was traveling on an airplane for the first time in her life, and was both excited and nervous about it. She was worried that she would be late and miss her plane, so she made sure she got to the airport in plenty of time. The ticket agent kindly directed her to a comfortable waiting area where she could rest. As she sat there, she watched all the people go by and wondered where they were all going. Her gaze fell upon an old-fashioned scale that promised to tell a person’s weight and also tell their fortune.
She decided to try it. It cost a nickel, so she got on the scale, dropped in her nickel and got her correct weight and a little card with her fortune. The card read, “You are a nun. You are twenty-six years old, and you are flying to Chicago today.”
“Well!” she said to herself. “How did that machine know that?” But as she sat there, she thought, “Oh I know, there must several cards in there and one was bound to be about a nun.” Soon her curiosity got the best of her. She got up, dropped another nickel in the machine and received a card that said, “You are a nun. You are twenty-six years old, you are flying for the first time in your life, and you are going to play the violin.”
She was amazed at this, and thought to herself, “That can’t be right–I’ve never played any musical instrument!” She sat back down, and soon a man with a duffle bag and a violin case came by and asked her if she would mind watching his things while he went to the restaurant. She said she would.
As she sat there, she thought about her latest fortune, and looked at the violin case. She knew that the man would be in the restaurant for a while, and wondered if she really could play the violin. She decided to give it a try, and amazingly, she found she actually could play a nice little tune. Smiling to herself, she put the violin away. But by then she just had to try the machine again.
This time the card read, “You are a nun. You are twenty-six years old, and you are going to fart.” She thought indignantly, ‘I have NEVER done that in my life, and I’m certainly not going to do it now.” Still fuming, she walked back to her seat, and slipped on the edge of the rug. She fell to her hands and knees, and farted. Red-faced, she strode back to the machine, put in one more nickel, and received this card: “You are a nun. You are twenty-six years old, and you fiddled and farted around so long that you MISSED YOUR PLANE.”
But it isn’t just Unkie’s talent for telling jokes that makes him so special. It’s the kind of person he is, and how he treats the people around him. He has lived a life of love, generosity, kindness and goodness, and in his way, made the world a better place. He certainly has made my life better and I love him dearly.