Sunday, March 8, 2009

Aunt Ruth and Uncle Carl

My Aunt Ruth describes her late husband as one of a kind. She herself is one of a kind, my mother’s younger sister, one of eleven, born into a poor Mennonite family. Growing up she was not one of those Aunts that had to hug you tight and press wet can’t wait to wipe off kisses from your cheek. She in contrast was the Aunt who allowed a nephew space, and always had a positive interest in him. She would laugh at his jokes, and years later put a comforting hand on his arm, when he was dealing with a deep loss. He felt she understood the pain. Her laugh still rings like chimes from a grand church organ, a beautiful sound bouncing from wall to wall eventually settling into the ears of those in her midst. Unlike many of my other Aunts, she wore lipstick, earrings, nail polish, and dressed stylish. She was my most beautiful Aunt. When you talked to her she would look you in the eye and let you say everything you had to say, and you felt listened to.

In a day where the trend is for men to be the brunt of jokes in sitcoms, and marginalized as useless shallow brutes that are driven only by base desires. Listen to my dear Aunt describing to me her husband who passed away sometime ago – so tender - such a different picture, of the stereo type. Notice the respect, the warmth, the value she placed on him, the love she had toward him and he toward her.

Read it slowly and let the words do their work.

“He was one of a kind and I learned from him that men were very nice, warm, cuddly, forgiving, funny, honest, dependable, strong, caring, wise, thoughtful, and occasionally extremely maddening! There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him. There are no situations in my life now that I don’t think about what he would do or want me to do. Just today I went to pick up my two live-ins (two dogs) after they were finished with their baths and I had to pass the cemetery where his earthly remains lie in a porcelain urn in a marble vault -located near the chimes next to a running stream with a lake all covered with ducks and two swans----- and I thought -----WHAT IN THE HECK ARE YOU DOING OVER THERE ANYWAY????????? WHY DON'T YOU JUST GET OVER IT AND COME ON HOME!”

My memories of this man are few but my impressions of him are strong. He lived in another state and I only saw him once a year when our two families went on family vacations together. He was a man full of life. He loved to fish the ocean and I can still see him leaning over the side of the boat emptying his stomach. For several years it was the same routine. My dad is driving the boat, Uncle Carl throwing up and us kids fishing.

There was the time when I was about 14 sleeping on the floor (14 year olds can sleep anywhere). He found a pheasant tail and kept lightly sticking it in my ear. Of course after much aggravation on my part and much laughing on his part, I finally woke up mad as can be at him. Over the years I have used the same trick many times on my own kids and I remember my Uncle.

With life so a miss at times, isn’t it great to have those people in our lives that give us ballast and help us steer a little straighter. Uncles and Aunts do that.

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