(On Saturday June 22nd, cancer took my uncle. I’m a little bit pissed, but mostly just happy to have known him for as long as I did. He was a great uncle, and a great friend.)
When I was trying to think of a title for this post, I kept swirling around things about Uncle Larry that stuck in my mind. He was so many things, but who wants to have a fifty seven word title? I had to narrow it to just three things.
Home made beer was a no brainer for me. I remember when he started making it. I was far too young to drink, but he or Paul would give me a sip when they were testing out a new batch. Sure there was an inch of sediment in the bottle and it tasted like compost smells, but he kept making it. Luckily he was someone who didn’t give up and it got better as he learned, so by the time I was of drinking age, it tasted pretty damn good. Well, I wouldn’t want to drink a dozen of them, but a couple of cool ones from the cellar have been known to hit the spot.
What can I say about laughter? He was a quick-witted, sarcastic guy, that I loved to hang out with. He could dish it out, but he could also take it. I loved to trade insults with him, and he seemed to really like it too. Maybe too much. 🙂 I guess that being so smart made it easy for him to come back with a witty retort, but he could immediately follow it with a thoughtful, more serious comment in the same thought process. That’s the kind of funny that very few people have. It didn’t matter what I went over there for, he would always put a smile on my face.
Probably the best example of his sense of humour was when we were throwing handfuls of gravel at a dead porcupine that had been hit by a car*. When I reached down for what was my last handful of rocks, I felt a stabbing pain in the centre of my right palm. When I unclenched my fist, I saw the quill sticking out. We immediately went home, but because it was Dad’s weekend, Mom and Paul had gone up north.
*Don’t judge me, I was a kid growing up in a village of two hundred people. Throwing rocks at dead things was a great time waster in my youth.
Uncle Larry only lived two doors down, so we went there. He proceeded to tell me about the barbs, and how he was going to have to push the quill through my hand and out the other side.
I lost it.
I was already in a horrible amount of pain, but he pulled it and I watched my skin tent up, so I believed him that it wasn’t coming out that way. He then cut the end off of it, and told me to brace myself against his work bench as he reached for a hammer. I clenched my eyes shut and that’s when he took the pliers and yanked it out as fast as he could. I didn’t even have time to cry, because the pain was gone too fast. Even though he was probably getting quite a kick out of making me think I was about to get a quill hammered through my hand, I know he was trying to get my attention away from what he was really going to do. It worked, and other than a slight infection, I was no worse for wear.
Okay, we’ve covered the two big ones here, but it was the third one that gave me a bit of grief. Do I talk about how he was a good dad? No, because he wasn’t my father, and it wouldn’t be for me to say. I know he was proud as hell of Lon, and would always tell me about his latest trip out and what he was doing out there. He also knew a lot about almost everything, but had never got into the internet.
Yes, he did it the old fashioned way, with books, and he probably retained all of the knowledge from any that he had read. I suppose I could also mention that as the oldest child, he had become the man of the house when his father died. I don’t know if he was even fourteen then, but he stepped up as best he could, and helped Grandma raise the rest of the kids.
So he was intelligent, a good father, and son, with a great sense of humour and a penchant for home brew, but that doesn’t cover his art and writing, the efforts he put into local naturalist clubs, or even just the work he did on his own little slice of wetland.
It also doesn’t touch on his friends. Pretty much anyone that knew him, liked him. He was helpful, kind, respectful, and courteous. He called a spade a spade, and if he didn’t like an idea, he would tell you. Not to be rude, but to let you know how he felt. Grandma was like that too, and it was quite refreshing to be around.
He was also pretty handy with fixing things. I know that whenever Paul wasn’t home, we could rely on Uncle Larry for any bike repairs or crazy glue needs. I think he liked it, because for a long time when we were kids, he didn’t have any of his own to fix stuff for. I remember when he made a string for my little fibreglass bow, and taught me how to shoot. He made me a quiver and some arrows too. I was over the moon. He was one of the best archers I had ever seen, and him and Cam used to come to our Cubs and Scouts meetings to teach us about archery.
You want to talk about a proud kid. I was just beaming from ear to ear. Now all of my troop was going to see how great my uncle was. When you’re a child, things like being able to make bows, arrows, and the string, are pretty damn impressive. Oh, who am I kidding? That still impresses the hell out of me. How many people do you know that can do it? Probably not too many.
Now I’ve told you about a few of the things that characterised my uncle, and while it’s just the tip of the iceberg, it’s something to go by. He really was my favourite uncle. Not because my other uncles were in any way faulty, but because for most of my young life he was only two doors down, and always seemed happy to have me around. That means a lot to a young kid. Even if I was being annoying, he never made me feel like it. He spoke to me as if I was one of his old buddies from Australia and not some little brat with way too many questions.
Thanks, Uncle Larry. You really were one of the good ones, and I will always have fond memories.
Bye for now,