Thursday, June 16, 2005

"Because the devil will take you under by the sharp lapels of you're checkered suit."

Out of all my uncles on my mother’s side, Uncle Stephen is the shortest. He’s also the nerdiest. That’s not an insult. Back in the 70’s, my grandparents requested that all their grandkids visit during the summer. Since I lived with my grandparents, I didn’t have to travel but I did have to share my room and the entire house with 11 cousins, 3 Aunts, 3 Uncles, my parents and my grandparents. I loved every minute of it.

Now I mention my Uncle’s height because as a child, the taller you are, the more authoritative you were. My uncle’s diminutive stature wasn’t too scary compared to my Uncle William’s 6 foot tall chiseled chin features. However, my mother thought the best way to threaten me to eat my crust from my PB&J sandwich was to tell me that my Uncle Stephen was going to go bananas if I didn’t finish it. Of course, this only instigated me.

Uncle Stephen is the only surviving son of my maternal grandparents and although I don’t see him as much anymore, he’s one of the influential male figures in my life.

On a flight to Atlanta, he taught me how to read the stock market listings. He also offered stock tips to me. Sure, I was a broke student but "you never know when you fall into luck", he would say.

He also told me to make sure I label my items. All his vinyls had a type written ‘This belongs to Phillip J. Fry’ sticker on the top left hand corner. I was always impressed by how he used his full name on all his labels, including the one on the Olivia Newton John album. He even sent me typewritten labels for my grandparents to use. Didn’t I tell you OCD runs in my family. Actually, it mainly runs in the male side of my family. I’m an anomaly.

When there is a deal, Uncle Stephen says never be afraid to grab it. Once he climbed into a giant truck bin to get a few ripe watermelons. In his fervor, the car keys fell out of his shirt pocket and he spent the rest of the afternoon searching the bin for his keys. Asked if it was worth it, Uncle Stephen said they were some of the best watermelons he had eaten.

Through everything, he never shows any stress, anxiety or uncertainty. I’ve never seen him break into a sweat. Supporting a family with 4 kids and being the primary breadwinner must be tough. Yet, he still finds time to take his kids on outings, go out with his wife, to even come home during lunch to do errands.

Uncle Stephen has taught me not to take life too seriously. We’re all in the same boat. Sure some of us are on yachts and others are in dinghies but we’re on the same waters and somehow, things will work out. Sometimes it's calm. Sometimes it’s rocky. In the end we make it to our destinations, a little wiser, a little more broken but the trip is what it’s all about.