I know, a rare Saturday post on the blog. It is rare, but necessary today. You see yesterday, my Uncle Al (great uncle actually) passed away. Not many people get to have relationships with their great uncles, but you had to understand where Al came from. You see, his brother, my mom’s dad, walked away from his responsibilities as dad to his kids when they were quite young. For much of my life, I did not know this because my mom’s step dad was all that I knew as ‘Grandaddy’ and didn’t really need to know much more – he treated us like we were his so there was no reason to think otherwise.
Later, after we moved to Tennessee, the truth became apparent, but it didn’t really change anything. If my real grandfather didn’t want to know me, I didn’t need to know him, or even think about it. But as we grew up, Al started making himself known in our family, mostly during reunions and stuff. Not sure if Al intended to become involved in all of our lives or if it was a natural happening, but it didn’t matter. As his relationship with my mom grew, he started reaching a bit further to us kids and we hit it off wonderfully.
This was particularly true for those of us boys who played golf, because Al had a passion for the game. He loved it. It gave us an avenue to get to know one another and to see him more than just at reunions, and he didn’t limit it to the game. He came over and would visit with all of us and talk to us like we were his kids – it was as natural as it could be. He loved us, and we quickly learned to love him. It was special.
Many times, usually on the golf course, he would comment that he wished his brother would have taken the time to get to know and enjoy his grandsons as much as he was getting to. It was one of the best things anyone had ever said to me and my family, and I knew he meant it.
Over the years, his age took its toll and his his health diminished. We hadn’t played golf together in years, especially after moving to Minnesota. But when the family would get together, he was there, if it was physically possible. The last time I got to see him was at the end of July at the family reunion – he had a walking cane because he wasn’t getting around that well, but it didn’t stop him from being there. Below is the only decent pic I got of him at the event, sitting next to my cousin Jerry drinking some tea and enjoying the conversation.
Even though his daughter Nancy posted updates about his health on Facebook, it didn’t hit me that he was in that bad of shape, at least not until the end. When she posted that he passed away yesterday, it hit me pretty hard.
He was a special man.. He deserves a tribute. Well, he deserves much more than that. Initially, I wanted to use a sunset or sunrise picture to commemorate him, but when I saw this old pic of the sunburst shining through the red cedars, it just made sense to me. Al was that star shining through the trees. He was unique and just his presence made me smile.
As I said earlier, I’m not sure if Al set out to get to know his brother’s children and their children in some sort of an attempt to apologize for his brother’s abandonment, or if it was just a natural happening, but it doesn’t matter. The love he shared with us was genuine, as was our love in return. There was no doubt how much he loved his kids and grandkids, but he made us feel like we were his as well. He will be missed greatly, but he has left such an lasting impression on me, and likely to many others, that he will never be quite gone. When I see the sun shine through the cedars, I’ll remember him and how much I love him.