My dad was not a big disciplinarian, nor was he all that intimidating. My dad was a musician, a chef and an all around good man who tried his best to take care of his family while battling some inner demons. All in all, he did a pretty good job and I miss him every day, but this story isn’t about him. This story is about the 4 scariest men in my life, my uncles.
More specifically, the four uncles on my mother’s side. No offense to my Uncles Bobby and Charlie but you were never around and kind of disowned my part of the family because my father was the black sheep. You tried here and there to keep in touch, but you kinda screwed the pooch when my dad passed and neither of you gave a crap enough to help us bury him or even show up. I get that you didn’t get along with my dad, but well you’re both pretty douchey. Now, where was I?
Oh yeah, my four uncles, Rick, Vance, Paul and Johnny. Together, the four of them somehow managed to mold my thoughts and beliefs of what a man should be even though I never spent all that much time with them and I mean hardly any at all, when I was younger. My Uncle Rick and his family lived an hour or so away from me so we at least saw them occasionally when I was growing up, but the other three lived at least six hours away so I saw them very infrequently.
Rick, to my young mind, was the most frightening of them all. He was massive, tall , had old tattoos and always seemed to be scowling. I never understood how my cousins didn’t constantly live in fear of him but they seemed very happy and well adjusted. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the greatness of this wonderful man who I wish I had gotten to spend more time with.
When my mother was passing he was one of the family members that came into Mass General hospital with me. This man that had always brought fear and dread to my young heart stood next to me as I stared out a large plate glass window and told me how strong he thought I was being. I remember looking at him and seeing pride and love on his face just a moment before he began to cry…. Yes the worlds scariest man was crying in front of me. I nearly lost what was left of my mind. It was then that I realized there was so much more to him than I had ever realized and it changed the way I looked at him, all of them actually.
My Uncle Paul is the one who came to visit the most often I’d have to say, he and his wife liked long car rides so they would come down to see us when the mood struck them. I always see him as a Paul Newman type of man. He always seemed to be a man of few words but they were always well chosen and wise, something I’ve tried to emulate and more than likely failed at miserably but I keep trying at least.
My Uncle Johnny is the only one that I am actually blood related to. He was always the epitome of the Irish (surname, not nationality) family to me. Loud, funny, well meaning, and loved to argue. He’s always been good at getting me to argue. not as good as my mother was but damned close.
Which brings me to my Uncle Vance. Vance passed away yesterday so he’s been in my thoughts a lot for the last 24 hours as have the rest of my family. Vance was a military man, strong, disciplined and intelligent. I never got to see him much when I was a kid… as a matter of fact I think I may have only met the man once before I was like 17. But I did know his Wife and son, my aunt Kay and my cousin Dean. Through them I heard story’s and got an idea of the man. When I finally did meet him I remember thinking that he wasn’t nearly as imposing, menacing or military-like as I thought he’d be from their description. He had a very friendly and open face and a contagious smile.
The little time I got to spend with him as an adult though was and will always be incredibly special to me. We seemed to get along really well and I always had a blast when I got to see and talk to him even when the event wasn’t very pleasant. I never asked him but I’d like to think he felt the same way about me. He showed me that you could be strong and disciplined yet still be fun loving and enjoy life.
These four men, who I haven’t spent nearly enough time with, have influenced my life in a major way. They were and are my role models My guide to how a man should act and behave. They instilled values in me that I try to live by today, unbeknownst to them and myself. Strength, compassion, wisdom, the value of knowing when to keep your mouth shut and when to argue until you turn blue in the face, when to kick back and have some fun but also having the discipline to know when it’s time to do some hard work and most of all to enjoy your life and your family as much as you can while you can.
I don’t always live up to those ideals or values but it will always give me something to shoot for. I hope you rest in peace Uncle Vance and that if there is a Heaven you’re having a beer with Uncle Rick. I miss and love you both.