Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Three Uncles; Surrogate Fathers"

Happy Father's Day to all Fathers.

My father left my family when we were pretty young.  But, if your heart is sufficiently open, God will come along and fill whatever void exists in your life.    In my case, I had three wonderful uncles who all served as a father figure for me. 

My Uncle Bill was a man who could not have lived had he not laughed.  Until much later in his life, when he was sick, my Uncle Bill always had a smile on his face, a joke to tell, or a prank to pull.  I absolutely loved being around him; how could a kid resist a laughing, teasing and playful uncle.  Fortunately, for me, Uncle Bill sired all girls so I too fulfilled his need to have a son.  I loved even simple things like sitting out on the porch and drinking coffee and talking to Uncle Bill.  I loved how he teased his girls; when upset with them he acted the "gruff daddy" but all his girls knew he was just a big teddy bear. 

When I returned home from my first tour in Vietnam my mom and I sat up all night talking and catching up on news of family.  But I was so anxious to see my Uncle Bill I finally talked my mom into joining me to go down the street and wake him and my Aunt Fanny at 2 o'clock in the morning.  They didn't mind a bit; Fanny made a big pot of coffee and we talked the night away and were only caught up with the news and love and laughter until well after the sun had risen.

My Uncle Bill passed away in November 1990.  I was in Saudi Arabia when the news came and couldn't get home for his funeral.  I cried like a baby when I heard the news and said a silent prayer for one of my  wonderful surrogate fathers.  I miss him to this day and wish him a wonderful Father's Day in heaven.

My Uncle Floyd was my second surrogate father.  We did not become close until I was a teenager, when he had moved near enough to us to establish a closer relationship.  Floyd was a strong, handsome, hard-working guy who also possessed a wild and wacky sense of humor; it seems to run strongly in my family.
Floyd was a Dodger fan and I was a Giants fan so we had a very fierce rivalry over the two teams, who were both very good teams.  We had some great times cheering on our teams when they played each other...and the fan of the winner always gloated!

My Uncle owned two cars, both of which I was absolutely crazy about; a 56 Chevy and a shiny and beautiful candy apple red 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Supersport.  As the time for my senior prom neared I hated the idea of picking my prom date up in my old jalopy.  I thought long and hard and finally got up the nerve to ask Uncle Floyd if I could borrow his 56 Chevy to drive to the prom.  He looked at me so fiercely that I was sorry I had asked;   he then told me "no, Dearel, you can't take the old Chevy...but you can have the new Chevelle".  I wouldn't never have dreamed of asking to borrow his new car!  My mouth dropped open and I don't even remember if I thanked him! 

In 1997 my Uncle Floyd was living in Missouri.  I decided to drive my mother and I out to Missouri from California, to celebrate my mom's 75th birthday.  We had a grand time on that trip; the best of which was seeing my mom so happy to celebrate a milestone birthday with her brother.  During our stay my Uncle Floyd and I talked late into the night.  We talked about all the good memories and he told me rich stories about he and my mom growing up in Oklahoma.  I didn't know it then, but when we said our goodbyes it was the last I was to see of him.  He died the following year.  I've always been grateful to have those days with him and to have the chance to tell him what he meant to me, and to tell him I loved him.  Happy Father's Day Uncle Floyd.

My Uncle Paul is the last surviving surrogate Uncle-Father.  Though I knew him all my life, I did not become very close to him until I was in my late teens.   Then a truckdriver, Paul and I bonded when he took me on a few of his trucking runs.  It gave us hours to talk and share experiences and get to know one another.  I learned to love him deeply for his compassionate heart, loving ways...and yes, great sense of humor.  Uncle Paul and Uncle Floyd used to take frequent trips from the midwest out to California to visit us all.  When they were together it was a literal tag team of comedy.  They never failed to lift our spirits and make our hearts joyous.

It was Uncle Paul and his wife Pat who gave my wife and I our first house furniture.  What a generous gesture it was!  They were living in Los Angeles when my Vietnamese bride and I returned from Vietnam.  Paul and Pat hosted us in L.A., took us to dinner and to Sea World and did everything to make my wife feel welcome.  Paul and Pat have lived in Kansas now for many years so it has been a long time since I have seen him.  We've talked on the phone a few times but I miss them dearly.  But the memories are dear and are strong.  Happy Father's Day Uncle Paul!

Yes, it is true that God taketh away....as he did with us, in not growing up with a father.  But it is also invariably true that God also giveth...in abundance!  My abundance was the joy of having three Uncle-Fathers who taught me invaluable life lessons and who gave me great love. 

Happy Father's Day to all.

4 comments:

Darlene said...

Love it!!!

JustCommonSense said...

Thanks, babe.

ralpheboy said...

Wow! I love this story. Obviously we have something very common about this story, Uncle Bill & Uncle Paul,and Of course your Uncle Floyd was my Dad. I loved him with all of my heart too. He was my confidant many times in my life. He taught me how to fish, my love for dogs, and a whole lot of how to be ornery (the good ornery anyway). I miss him more than anyone I have ever missed in my life and will until the day that I die. I still go to his grave about 2 times a year and put flowers out, clean around it and look at all of the other family members who are buried nearby, including Grandpa Friend. I miss our Uncle Bill too, he truely was the funniest man I ever knew personally and that laugh was contagious. I remember when he would come to our house in Fresno like him,Aunt Fanny & the girls did often, how he would tease our family dog Blackie until he got bit. He wouldn't stop teasing
Blackie and Blackie wouldn't stop trying to bite Uncle Bill until they both got their way. Of course then it was on to teasing us kids. I remember standing with my nose against the wall just so Dad and him could have a good laugh, all the times they would walk around the yard dropping money and acting like they found it there, every now and then they would let us find some too. Those were some very special times in my life and I must say I go back their in my mind alot. More lately than ever.
I can't wait to get to see you Dearel so we can share some of the stories we have about all three of those Old Farts. Wait I think we are Old Farts now right.

JustCommonSense said...

Ralph, your comments brought back some wonderful memories too. Yes, you were fortunate to have a Dad like Floyd and we're lucky to have had some pretty damn good uncles too.