You Can Call Me (Uncle) Al

Or Some Memories With My Favorite Uncle…

My mother’s baby brother. The second youngest of seven. Sweet, caring, and a bit of a jester…my Uncle Al. When he came into my life, he had no idea what to do with a kid. I had no idea what to do with him either. He was unlike any other adult I’d ever known. He didn’t…adult…right. He was goofy. He seemed like a tall child. I didn’t know what to make of him. But I knew my mom adored him and, if she adored him, I would give him a chance. Besides, I was curious…

How I Learned To Swim: I loved water growing up. You couldn’t keep me out of the pool. I knew the rules, though. No swimming without floaties and without adults. So I’d nag any adult around to swim with me. When my uncle moved in, he was my latest victim. He would pretend he was going to throw me into the pool every time and I would squeal every time. Then, one day, he told me to hold onto my inner tube and actually threw me in. As you know, water makes things slippery, so I just slipped right on through that tube down into the pool. When I popped up and doggy paddled to the edge of the pool to cough and wipe water from my eyes, I remember seeing the terror in my uncle’s eyes. “Your mom is going to kill me! Don’t tell!” soon became a mantra of sorts between us. My mom came out a minute later to see how I was doing and was surprised to see I could swim without floaties already. Years later I told her what really happened and she told me how her older brother taught her to ride a bike on a steep hill with a bike that had no breaks. Only the strong survive.

How I Lost My First Tooth: I was playing tag outside with the neighborhood kids. Ever the strategist, I hid well-I was an awesome hider- knowing I wasn’t as fast as some of the other kids. I waited until there was a distraction before running for base. When I saw my chance, I took off as fast as I could. Unfortunately, we are a clumsy folk and I tripped over something and fell. The bottom tooth that had been loose popped out of my mouth when I hit my chin on the ground. I was so estatic about finally losing my tooth that I jumped immediately up and shouted to the world about my lost tooth all of the way home. I was surprised that no one tagged me as I ran by. I ran to my uncle and told him about my tooth and he looked horrified. Apparently, I was a bloody mess and he was sure my mother was going to kill him. I thought he was a bit slow on the uptake and showed him that my tooth came out. He still didn’t care and insisted on cleaning the blood. As a neat freak, blood would have bothered me but I was celebrating, damnit! But I relented anyway. I let him clean the blood up.

Driving To the Farm: My uncle would drive me up to my grandparents’ farm every summer and back home at the end of summer. He would take a few days both times visiting roommates from college and old friends before going back to Jersey. We had a little ritual we’d do: breakfast, drive half way, stop for lunch, go to the farm. I’ve never been a big eater, especially when it comes to breakfast. My grandmother was very waste not want not. She lived during the Depression so it was sinful to not finish food. My mom and aunts and uncles felt the same. So, we’d stop for breakfast but I’d only want a little breakfast but there is no such thing. And one time my uncle insisted I actually finish my entire stack of pancakes. Now I get very car sick so I usually doped myself up on Dramamine and slept most of the ride. Only this time my stomach wasn’t cooperating. I never threw up in a car before and I always give plenty of warning. He pulled over quickly and dumped my Barbies all over the car, which made me cry, and insisted I puke in the bag. I was upset about the disaster that was my Barbies and their clothing. He wasn’t sympathetic. I threw up in the bag. He never insisted I finish my meal ever again, I never let him near my Barbies again.

To me, my uncle was more of a father than my father ever could be and I’m so grateful that I have him in my life. He still lives nearby, one town over, with his wife and many rescue dogs and it’s just about my favorite place to visit.

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