This special edition of “Tales for Tuesday” is printed on Sunday, especially for Uncle Terry.
Where do you even start when you’re talking about Uncle Terry? In my family he was known as “Terry 1” because we had a plethora of Uncles by that name, but he was always first.
Uncle Terry could never talk without smiling. I think his smile muscles are extra short, for his mouth was always drawn up in a grin, and I never could decide if he was teasing me for being so serious all the time or adoring me because, well, he seemed to adore everyone.
Especially his kids. I never knew a dad in my entire scope of friends and family who spent more time with his kids – usually on the mountain tops. I remember the mixture of envy and terror I felt as he told me of the 25 mile hikes he would drag his kids on for a Saturday. Week long camp trips deep into the back country was how he vacationed. And no kid was too small or to weak for his excursions. Even my cousin, Zach, his son, who was born without abdominal muscles, was taken along, and had to keep up. Now on Facebook I see pictures of cousin Jeremy and his kids – little toddlers out in the wilderness, and I laugh inwardly and feel the same mixture of delight and horror as he is doing the same thing.
It was the day after Christmas in 1996 – and my parents waved goodbye to Danny (18), me (17), Larry (15) and the little people in our family as we drove over five hundred miles in the old blue suburban to see Aunt Jill and Uncle Terry, who had invited us for a visit.
And it became a little nerve wracking as we drove over the Sierra Nevada mountains in a snow storm, and the Burb kept overheating. Danny would drive for a while ’til the thermostat was too much to ignore. Then we’d pull over, open the hood, and do the only thing we could think of to cool the car down – throw the accumulating snow from the side of the road onto the steaming engine.
Finally we couldn’t go any further, so, while Danny and the kids waited, I thumbed a ride into the next town to call Uncle Terry to come get us.
And when he came he had his typical grin, which made the stressful situation turn instantly into a silly and great adventure to tell my kids – someday.
This week we had the tragic news of Uncle Terry’s diagnosis of a terminal cancer. His time is limited, but his life seemed to be lived so fully, how can there be tragedy in that? The greatest sadness will only be for those of us who still need his grin to remind us not to take everything so serious, and to keep looking for the adventure in it all.
I’m going to try and write down memories I have – for my little lovelies who always ask “Tell me a story of when you were a kid . . .”
I’m going to call them “Tales for Tuesdays” – and will try to write one a week . . . unless of course something else happens. In which case I won’t.