Thursday, October 7, 2010

Uncle Dick

My first memory in life is of you. I was wearing a yellow dress, eagerly anticipating your arrival. I stood on our porch. You pulled me down off the porch and swung me around in a big hug. I don't remember anything else about that visit.

You taught me how to tie my shoes. You let me read to you from the Bible when I was 4 years old and had just learned to read. You made me feel so proud to know how to read such big words.

You brought us a bunch of hats one year. It was random and looking back, kind of hilarious---but we loved it.

You brought me my best friend, until you didn't have to bring her and she did the trip without you.

You always insisted on a hug, a great big giant bear hug. I can see you standing in a dozen different places with your head tilted to the side, your arms open wide, your big, telling smiling, just waiting for your hug.

I baled hay on the ranch with you and my cousins. It was hard and satisfying. I love being able to say I've baled hay.

You encouraged me to get good grades in college.

You used to ask me to tell you faith-promoting stories. I'm pretty sure I rolled my eyes every time.

You taught me the West Coast Swing and I was a hard, hard, pupil to teach. You made me go to a dance hall and dance with other people. It was terrifying and I tried to get out of it a dozen times or more. I don't believe you understand the words "No" and "I can't."

You didn't sugar coat. And if you did, it was usually an obscure quote I didn't understand.

You knew I didn't know as much as I thought I did, but you didn't make me feel stupid.

You danced with Betty in the kitchen. Even if she was in the middle of seasoning a salmon.

You took me on horseback rides. I think every member of our extended family can say that. I had one ride in college that was particularly soul satisfying. We rode late into the night, past midnight. I was so sore the next day, but that evening with you, on a horse, was just what I needed. I'm sure I never told you that. You probably knew.

You quoted poetry. A lot. Most of the time I didn't understand any of it. Last time you visited me in Iowa you introduced me to Pablo Neruda. Not like most people introduce others to poetry. There was a slight lull in our conversation, we were talking about Josie. It was 4 years later and her absence in our lives was still fresh, raw, sometimes consuming. You suddenly began...

When I die, I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep.
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea’s aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walk on.

I want what I love to continue to live,
and you whom I love and sang above everything else
to continue to flourish, full-flowered:
so that you can reach everything my love directs you to,
so that my shadow can travel along in your hair,
so that everything can learn the reason for my song.

So fitting for you, from Josie. So fitting for us, from you.

When J and I were desperately poor students our car broke down. You rigged it to get us home after Josie's Memorial ride, and then later sent us a check that covered the exact amount of the repair.

You made me think "Uncle" was a way of life. I didn't know not everyone had an uncle like you. I didn't realize for a long time how much time and effort it took for you to be who you were to all of us.

We just bought a house, four days before you died. I spend a lot of time in this quiet house, unpacking boxes. I sit in this big house full of boxes, trying to imagine a house without boxes, and a world without you. I can't believe you won't be in California, standing in the foyer, with your head tilted to the side, your arms open wide.

You have left a void so big, so many lives you've touched, so many people who love you and were loved by you. I'm so glad you are my uncle. So glad you made that word mean so much to me.