Kids liked to wrestle when I was a little girl, just like they do today. When one kid got another kid in some kind of hold, he might make him say “Uncle” before he let him go. I’m sure that would be called bullying today. It certainly wasn’t very nice back then.
The word uncle brings up painful memories for some women. I’m thankful that it is a sweet word to me. I was (and am) blessed to have such fun ones. There was my whistling Uncle Preston and my teasing Uncle Ronnie, who used to kid me about the way I drank Coca-Cola out of a bottle. When I was quite little, I stuck the bottle in my mouth instead of putting my lips on its rim. By the way, there were only two kinds of Coca-Cola back then. It came in a returnable glass bottle or in a drinking glass at a soda fountain or restaurant. No Diet Coke, no cans, no plastic bottles. For extra money, kids could comb the town for Coke bottles and other soft drink bottles and turn them in at the local grocery store to earn three cents apiece. I digress. One of the other ways that Uncle Ronnie teased me was by calling me his next-to-favorite niece. He only had two. I was never offended. It was just his way.
There was Uncle Joel, who let me sit on his horse, and Uncle Billy, who raced toy slot cars and got his name in the Nashville Tennessean when he bowled a perfect 300. My newest uncle is Otto. I was in my thirties when he became my uncle. I love this big teddy bear of a guy who loves little Shih tzus and my Aunt Emily (Happy Birthday today, Emily).
Then there was my Uncle Jerry. You never knew what fascinating thing he would be into the next time Daddy took us the 130 miles to visit him, Aunt Nan, Tina, and Chris. He worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at a smalltown airport in Crossville, Tennessee. Sometimes we toured the airport. Other times he would talk to me about his latest hobby. Once he turned an old washing machine into a sort of carnival game. When he attached a piece of paper to the place where the center agitator was, you could drop blobs of paint onto the paper while the paper spun, creating “modern art.” For a while he took up stained glass. Once he bought a television kit and became the only person I knew with a television set built into a wall. One time when we visited, he was talking about sailing around the world. He never did that, but when I called my cousin Tina on Tuesday to tell her how Henry was doing, she told me about his latest surprise. She had walked out of her office that day to get a breath of fresh air and there was her dad getting out of his new red convertible sports car. He said Aunt Nan didn’t even know about it yet. Tina told him that she thought it was better than the motorcycle he had been talking about. Uncle Jerry is 83, or is it 84?
Uncles and nieces and nephews, what a special relationship that can be. All of my uncles had children of their own, but they still knew how to make me feel loved and special. On Sunday night when Ray and I were sitting in the family room at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, we struck up a conversation with an older gentleman. He told us that he had just gotten there that day, that he had a great-niece in the hospital, and that he had driven 130 miles to be there (130 miles, that’s an interesting coincidence). He said that the little girl’s grandparents were far away in Minnesota and that he thought he should come so that his niece, the little girl’s mother, would not be alone. Soon he lay back in one of those uncomfortable hospital contraptions that family members use for a few hours of sleep. I didn’t see him again until just before we left on Tuesday. I had worried that perhaps the little girl had gotten worse, but, no, she was about to go home, just like Henry. He told us what the doctors had decided and then we got to meet his niece and see his great-niece, too.
I had a precious conversation with a social worker at the hospital the other day. She was a believer, and she told me something she learned while in seminary. She said that Satan tries to break up families because family is the place where we get so much of what we need as human beings.
In Acts 10, a devout and God-fearing Roman centurion named Cornelius had a vision. He saw an angel of God who told him to send for Simon Peter. God also revealed to Peter that he should go and teach the Gentile Cornelius. When Peter arrived, Cornelius had called together the people who meant the most to him, his relatives and close friends. Naturally. Let’s not take one of those precious relationships for granted. I think I’ll pick up the phone and say “Uncle.”
Now Cornelius was waiting for them
and had called together his relatives and close friends.
Acts 10:24, NASB