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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

And an Uncle as a Bonus

My father had no known siblings and my mother had one sister. I have written a post about my precious aunt earlier this year “Happy birthday Auntie." Most of my early years were spent enjoying my aunt and cousins, but I didn’t have a direct relationship with my uncle. He was always friendly and welcoming, but he was more my aunt’s husband than my uncle…until my father got sick.

My father and uncle went to college together. I came to know this when they attended a class reunion together. It’s funny how you miss some of these salient details when you are a child. I have no doubt that I would have heard more of these stories if my parents were a happy couple. As it turns out, my dad and my aunt were friends before my dad met my mom. My aunt and uncle were dating and my parents were introduced to each other while my dad and uncle were in college. My dad graduated from college, signed up for 4 years in the Air Force during the Korean conflict. (As a college grad, he only had to do 2 years) and then resumed his relationship with my mom. I may be taking a little poetic license here. The truth of the matter is that the only reason my parents got married is because I was on the way. Getting married was the honorable thing to do.

My parents separated when I was very young so there were no family gatherings with my uncle and dad. Fast forward 30 years, my uncle started a genealogy project on our families. He was able to get some exciting details on his and our side of the family. This gave me the opportunity to “know” people who were responsible for my existence, but I’d never met. He was kind enough to share this information with me and I caught the genealogy bug. Our families united to acknowledge the passing of my father and by all accounts, that could have been the end of this new connection…but that would have been a sad conclusion. My aunt received some health news that promoted my uncle to encourage us to make a trip to New York to visit with her while she was still well. We made our way up to visit that wonderful house with all of the great memories we enjoyed as children. Before there was HGTV, my aunt and uncle converted their attic to a master suite with an additional bedroom, bathroom and sitting room. Their bathtub, commode and sink were a beautiful shade of peach. As a child, I’d only known this equipment to come in white so this was a delightful sight! The steps leading up to the master suite was the indoor equipment for bumping down the stairs on our butts. I had to show the fellas how much fun we used to have with that. I’m glad I didn’t bump myself into an injury!

My uncle continues to call and touch base with us - checking on all of my mother’s grandchildren, reiterating the open doors of their home and his 80 year old escapades. He doesn’t run any longer, but took up running when he was in his 50’s. His love for running rubbed off on one of his grandsons and earned him a college scholarship! His doctor told him that this activity gave him a better chance of a more robust life. I remember calling him on his 80th birthday and him saying, I feel cool now, I’m eighty years old. He enjoys a good game of ping pong, a good strawberry jam (or jelly), and keeping up with his grandsons. When I traveled to New York to celebrate their 60 wedding anniversary, I was reminded what a good dancer my uncle is. He and my aunt keep the dance floor lively. The anniversary celebration also brought together more people that knew my dad as a young man. It was great to be introduced as Aston’s daughter. This was truly priceless.

I appreciate this connection because he knows me as my mother’s child, but also my father’s child. Since my dad, at his own admission, didn’t have lots of friends, the college stories are a lot of fun to listen to. As you can tell, I appreciate this new relationship with my uncle. Every couple of months we check in on each other. One more special thing about my uncle – no one can wear a beret like him. My uncle is one cool cat…and I really appreciate his love.

Join me for the next entry where I will talk about my gift of a brother-in-law!

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