bipolar mom shares her insights on everyday life

Posts tagged ‘uncle’

A Blessed Christmas

I am so lucky.  So very very lucky. 

I had such a wonderful Christmas.  Spent Christmas Eve day with my parents, then went to church.  Came home and opened presents with the kids.  Went to bed at a decent hour for the first time in years.  I’m usually doing “one more thing” in preparation for our trip the next morning.

On Christmas Day, we headed out for Marshfield, MO (just before Springfield on I-44) to be with my extended family on my mom’s side.  This is just about the highlight of my year.  I love being with my family.  I love that we all get along and there is no tension.  And, most of all, I love that my family loves to go as much as I do. 

It’s a unique situation, in my opinion.  I only have two cousins, and they are about 10 years older than I am.  So, I always looked up to them, but didn’t consider them “my age.”  Now that I’m older, we all get along so well, as if we were the same age.  But, what is even more unique is that I get along just as well with their kids now that they are older.  They are roughly 20 years younger than I am, but let’s be honest, I act a lot younger than I really am.  Plus, I’m just into a lot of the stuff that they are.  We are all four on Facebook, so that made this trip even more awesome.  I told them that even though I hadn’t seen them in a year, I felt like I had seen them often, because I would keep up with them on Facebook.

Another really cool thing about my family is that my aunts and uncles also act younger than their ages.  And, my kids actually enjoy spending time with them.  I can remember my mom and dad making me go visit their aunts and uncles, and I could not have been more bored.  Sure, they’d usually have cookies, but I would be limited to one or two, and then what was I supposed to do for the next hour?  Man, that time would go sooo  sllooowwwlllyyy.  But, my kids just love visiting with my aunts and uncles.  They have great stories to tell them, and often have something to keep them occupied.  Plus, they have satellite, so our kids see shows that we don’t get at home.  (We don’t have cable.  I know.  A moment of silence, please.) 

So, the time with my side of the family was filled with food and fun.  Fabulous! 

The next day we headed to Joplin for time with Tom’s mom and brothers.  Now, most people don’t enjoy time with their in-laws, and a few years ago, I would have been one of them.  While, as I mentioned earlier, I act younger than I am, I have also matured enough to be able to enjoy my relationship with my mother-in-law.  When my kids were little, a woman from church pointed out to me that my M-I-L was also my children’s grandmother.  And, it was then that I realized how awful it would have been if my parents had acted disappointed about my grandparents’ visits or our visits to them. 

Ever since then, I have come to enjoy my visits with my in-laws.  My M-I-L and I have some great discussions.  She used to be a librarian in two elementary schools, and I was an elementary teacher, so we share that commonality.  Tom’s two youngest brothers also live in Joplin, so we were able to spend time with them as well.  My M-I-L cooked a fantastic dinner of pork loin, corn, mashed potatoes, spinach salad, carrots, and homemade bread.  Yum!  Tom’s youngest brother has a daughter who is four.  We played a Dr. Seuss game, that was a lot of fun for all of us, which is hard to find these days.  We also met his girlfriend for the first time, and she gets four thumbs up from this family!

And, then, yesterday we headed back home.  Whew.  So glad to be back in our own beds and able to look forward to a week of relaxation.

But, as I look back on the holiday, it could not have gone any better.  Notice I didn’t mention any gifts I received.  Those took a backseat to all the time spent with families.  As each year goes by, and we are all able to get together, I thank God for letting us all live one more year so that we can enjoy the gift of our families.  One day, there will be people missing, and of course, then it won’t be the same.  But for now, I have been blessed with one of the greatest Christmases ever.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Tom!

Yep.  I know.  Another relative with a birthday.  Well, Uncle Tom is the last one in the bunch.  It is going to be difficult to condense all his wonderful qualities into one post, but I will do my best.

Uncle Tom is the epitome of relaxed.  Nothing bothers him or freaks him out.  Case and point:  He taught me how to drive.  Now, my dad spent the most time with me when I learned how to drive, but Uncle Tom let me take the wheel first.  He let me loose on an old, old car (forgive me, Unk, for not knowing what kind it was) and still laughs about how fast I drove on this one road.  Apparently, I was going so fast that there was no way I was going to make the turn in the road, so he just let me go.  And, I went flying into some field.  I learned to slow down on curves after that.

He used to be a postal carrier.  I know.  You are thinking Cliff Claven.  And there are some similarities, except Uncle Tom’s facts are actually true.  And, he doesn’t have that annoying voice.  And, he doesn’t spend his life in a bar.  Okay.  So, there aren’t many similarities.

My grandmother once said of Uncle Tom that he was the most learned person she knew.  Pretty impressive considering very few from that town went to college back then, including him. 

He reads A LOT!  And studies all sorts of things and actually remembers them.  (Where was he when I was taking History in college?  I couldn’t remember a dang thing.)  He and my aunt hosted three foreign exchange students in the 70s and he could tell you numerous details about where each one of them came from. 

He has had more hobbies than Imelda Marcos had shoes.  But he never did them “just a little.”  He always did 100%.  My earliest memory was photography.  And wildflowers.  So we saw lots of photos of wildflowers.

He also taught me to fish, which he had been doing for a loooong time.  He’s an excellent teacher because he has the patience of a saint.  (Don’t forget that driving thing.)  He also learned to fly fish and how to tie his own flies.  It was fun to watch him do those. 

He loves to cook.  He introduced me to tempura.  He fixed that when I brought Tom to meet them.  I am not so sure my Tom didn’t marry me because of Uncle Tom’s cooking.  😉  Uncle Tom tries all different kinds of food.  And then dares me to try it.  I almost always do.  Almost.  He still hasn’t gotten okra in this mouth.

Now I could write an entire book on Uncle Tom’s woodworking.  He used to make beautiful shelves, quilt stands, tables, benches, and then carve leaves or other things on them.  Apparently, the carving of those sparked his interest in a big way.  He has read books on carving Santa Clauses and then made some that are out of this world!  He carves them and paints them.  He’s always glad when he’s done with the orders for Christmas.  I think by then, Santa may actually equal Satan.  Not really.

The carving of those Santas obviously sparked his interest in carving.  He has attended classes and read book after book about carving birds.  I even heard him say something like, “Well, I was almost done with this cardinal, when I realized that cardinals don’t have 7 tail feathers, they have 8, so I had to start again.”  Now, all of you ornithologists don’t respond to this post by telling me I’m way off.  Just try to get the essence of the dedication of this man.  Okay?

He even teaches carving in his workshop to all sorts of people.  Yep.  He’s that good.  🙂

Honestly, I know I am forgetting probably half a dozen hobbies that he has had and taught me about.

He and my aunt were part of the caravan of campers in my family that would go on a trip every year.  He’s had a trailer as long as I can remember.  And, apparently, they all weren’t the nicest of trailers.  He had one that had a hole in the bottom, I think.  I’m pretty sure that happened after he bought it. 

And, last but certainly not least, he has always been very involved in the church.  He has taught confirmation so long that he is actually teaching children of former students! 

And, I know they must enjoy having him as a teacher, because he has taught me so many things, and I’ve enjoyed learning every single one of them!

Happy Birthday, Uncle Jer!

What do you call a guy who, even though he is as old as your parents, doesn’t act like it and is super-cool?  You call him “Uncle Jer!” 

As mentioned in an earlier post, Uncle Jer was pretty much responsible for getting me record albums that shaped my love of popular music.  (Even though, at my request he bought me “Donny and Marie: Hits from Their TV Show.”  I’m sure he put on a disguise when he had to go to the counter to buy that one!)  He’d record tapes of my favorite songs that he had albums of.  I particularly remember an Elton John one, but I know there were many others.  One time, I even told him I liked classical music, but I only liked the really dramatic, loud stuff.  (Before he was into rock, the man collected dozens, maybe even 100, of classical albums)  So, he made me two tapes:  Bombastical Classical and Even MORE Bombastical Classical.  How cool is that?

My brother and I would always go to Kansas City every year to visit Uncle Jer and Aunt Sher.  (I know.  They rhyme.)  We would go to Worlds of Fun and a Royals game.  Every year!  And, every year, Uncle Jer would ride all the rides with us at Worlds of Fun.  Whatever we wanted, he did.  I will never forget the time I wanted to ride the Screamroller.  It was one of the first upside-down loop-de-loop ones.  He said he’d go with me.  My brother didn’t want to go or was too short, I don’t remember.  So, we stood in this loooong line waiting to get on the coaster.  When we got directly under the upside-down section, I chickened out.  I looked at him and sheepishly asked, “Can we go back?  I don’t want to ride it anymore.”  He laughed and said, “Sure.”  He never made fun of me or anything.  Didn’t roll his eyes about the waste of time just standing there.  We just went back to my aunt and brother and moved on.  Very cool.

Now, about the Royals.  I am a die-hard Cardinals fan.  But, my uncle made me like the Royals enough to make them a close second.  My favorite player, Darrell Porter, first played for the Royals.  When he came to St. Louis, I was sooo thrilled.  I felt like I knew him already.  And, of course, there was George Brett.  We were there when his batting average hit .400.  That was cool. 

My uncle is hilarious, too.  When we went to a Royals game, early on in our KC visiting history, Al Hrabosky “The Mad Hungarian” was a pitcher.  I said something like, “I hate that guy.”  Well, throughout the game, Uncle Jer would yell out, “Michelle wants Al!”  I would hiss, “No I don’t!”  Then, he’d do it again.  And again.  And again.  I felt like I was turning four shades of red, but it was funny.

My brother and I tried to teach my aunt and uncle the card game “I Doubt It.”  You may know it as another name, but the way it works is you go around the table and in numerical order you say, “I have one Ace.”  If someone says, “I doubt it” and you did play one Ace, then they have to pick up all the cards in the pile.  If they say “I doubt it” and you didn’t play an Ace, then YOU have to pick up the cards.  Then, the next person has to do 2’s, then 3’s, etc.  Well, when it got to Uncle Jer, he would say, “I don’t have any 8s.”  At first, my brother and I would get soooo frustrated!  Then, it just became funny. 

The classic Uncle Jer line is the funniest.  (Feel free to use it at your next dinner party.)  At a dinner everyone was complimenting the chef (I have no idea if it was my mom or my aunt) on various dishes.  “Oh, good roast beef”  “Good green beans”  and then my uncle says, “Good ice cubes.”  Maybe you had to be there, but it really was funny.  And, now it is just something we all say when everyone starts commenting on the food.

So, yeah.  My Uncle Jer is pretty awesome.  He even took me to a Rick Springfield concert and we had an excellent time.  I can’t imagine doing that with any other relative other than my cool Uncle Jer.

So, Happy Birthday, Uncle Jer!  May you rock on for years to come!

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