...at 11:00 at night, you know it's not good news.
The news wasn't good. Not completely unexpected, as he was 92, and in poor health, my Uncle Fred had passed.
He was, without hope of contradiction, the favorite Uncle. Lifelong bachelor, there's a story there, one that only his brothers know, and they told
no one. I have an idea...but I never had the balls to ask.
He served during the latter part of WWII, got drafted, served for two years then was let loose. Went back to lumberjacking, later worked as a shift
foreman for a local lumber mill. One of my earliest memories of him, we were headed to a family reunion at grandpas and his place on top of a mountain
equal distance from Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, and we stopped at his job site to check with him about something or other...I didn't care, I was 4, I
think...anyway, he saw Dad pull up in our ubiquitous VW bus, with it's various military base stickers, and drove up in this, to me anyway, humongous
forklift loaded with lumber.
He was a short, stocky man, who could lift the world, were he so minded. After my Dad, he is the one man I admired most in this world. As a kid, I
don't think I was ever happier than when I got to spend time with both of them at the same time. I spent several summers "helping" him, though
hindering was probably closer to the truth that first summer... I learned what a days work was. That first summer, I learned to bail hay, and throw it
onto a trailer, or into the back of a truck. The second, third, and fourth summers I spent mending fences. Just the three of us, me, myself, and I.
Load up the truck with a chainsaw, gas/oil, post hole digger, couple rolls of barbed wire, and off I'd go, while he did other things around the
mountain. Cut up 8' cedar fence posts, set 'em in preservative for a few days, dig a two foot hole, plant 'em, string the wire--repeat 'til the
job was done, or school started back up...
The trust that that revealed I don't think I ever thanked him for. He trusted me to do the job, and do it right. Those summers remain some of the
greatest times of my life. I was, to coin a phrase, somewhat spoiled/sheltered from the realities of life--even as a late teen. Those summers and the
first couple of years in Alaska worked something of a miracle. He played a major, major roll in that, perhaps even more than my parents--who, truth to
tell, were about out of patience with a certain young idjit (waving slowly). I sure that that frustration played a major roll in my doing those
summers. He'd either cure me, or kill me...
My other memories are of holidays, Christmas in particular... He'd spend it with his big brother, and his family. Every year, he'd bring the
Christmas tree--every year it seemed better than the last--and on Christmas Eve, it'd be put up and decorated. After the ornaments were hung, he and
Dad would hang the tinsel strands. Again, some of the best memories of my life.
Amazing how many of those memories revolve around a single man.
I'm forever indebted to him for the major roll he played in my life. As I said above, I have had two major male influences in my life, my Dad, and
his oldest brother. They didn't tell me how to be a man, they showed me--by living their lives, mostly, on their own terms--beholden to none.
My father is gone on to where I can't follow, just yet. So, too, my mother. Now, my favorite Uncle.
The funeral will, I'm sure, bring many of my generation of the family together, probably one last time, barring some sort of miracle.
My love and affection are boundless, but my respect and admiration, even more so. Rest Well, Uncle, from a life well lived. May God grant you the
peace you've earned. Thank you for putting up with a brat, and helping set him on a better path.
A life well lived.
Son. Brother. Uncle. Teacher.
Thank you. For everything.
In remembrance, I'd ask you to share memories of your own families. It seems appropriate.