Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peaks and Valleys

Today we attended the memorial service for Uncle Jim. Evidently, he used to joke that they would have to pay people to attend his funeral. He was right about a lot of things, but not that! There were hundreds of people in attendance. Bill Blankenship (University of Tulsa head football coach) was one of three people to eulogize my uncle. His words were wonderful, but it was really my cousin Ryan (his eldest son) that amazed us all with his words of humor, truth, and dedication.

My uncle was an avid runner. He even ran the Pike's Peak marathon. His ashes will be spread on the peak sometime this spring or summer.

I lived with my aunt and uncle a short while after I graduated high school. It was a special time, living in such a stable family. [My parents were divorced, and my father, the son of an abusive father.] It was remarkable to me to see this upstanding family day after day, week after week. When I was under that roof, I went by my uncle's rules. One of those rules was that you didn't say "yeah" instead of "yes." If you said "yeah" the discipline was 20 push ups! He took it easy on me and only made me do 10 push ups or 20 sit ups. It's been one of our longstanding memories together, and I never say "yeah" without thinking about Uncle Jim's rule! Anyway, when I say that he was "more than an uncle" to me, this is part of the reason why. He opened his home to me at a time when I felt sort of homeless.

Because of the way he lived his life, I have always wanted to make him proud. To have Uncle Jim (and Aunt Margaret) be proud of me...that's no small thing. When I think about how to do it right, I think of that family. At the same time, we were never really touchy-feely. "I Love You" wasn't said willy-nilly. No deep heart to heart talks. It was just there--a special connection I have always felt with him. Sometime in the last several years my mom shared with me that he also felt that special connection. Today, as I hugged my Aunt Margaret she gave me the greatest compliment. She shuddered just a bit and said, "When I look at you I see him." This isn't because I in ANY way resemble my uncle. [I look just like my dad, and he is my maternal uncle.] I don't know why she would ever see him in me, but if anything about me reminds my aunt of my uncle, I am forever honored.

My uncle would NOT want us to be going on and on about him like this. He would NOT want me to allow his death to bring me to the depths of despair. He'd tell me to suck it up and get on with life because he's just fine. He'll be there when I arrive "home." One very true statement was made today. The first thing my uncle would have said to all of the mourners at his funeral would have been, "What are you all doing here?!"

So. I'm not going to stay "here" anymore. Movin' on Uncle Jim. Gonna keep making you proud.