Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Special Man

My Uncle Joe

This has been a year of great loss for us, first my Mom and exactly five months later, my uncle who was also my Godfather.
It is true the visits with my Uncle were limited to only a few times a year when either we made the trek to NH or he came to visit us, sometimes with just his daughter, other times bringing my grandparents too, but they were always such happy times.
The love of card playing runs in the blood of my Dad's relatives. I'm sure we never visited his parents without playing cards. Whenever we were together we either played 45's or Setback. I remember at age seven nervously playing with the adults and hoping I did not make a wrong move to cause my team to lose. It was serious "play".
At my parents house on hot days, we would hang out in the pool. All visits would always include eating and talking. It was the talking that was the best part. My Uncle just loved to tell real life stories. He seemed like a magnet to funny things happening to him. Or maybe he just looked at the sunny side of life. He always made us laugh and to quote him, "was always the happiest when I could make somebody smile, chuckle or laugh".
He was also a man who was very creative and loved creating his own crafts. I don't think we ever left empty handed whether we visited him or he visited us. I could not believe even the last time I visited him in the nursing home, as limited as he was in his capabilities, he gave us a little craft he had recently made.
Here are some of the things he made and gave me.
I always could count on gifts at Christmas and my birthday. We both shared January birthdays, 5 days (but many years) apart. Part of the Christmas gift traditionally would be a box of chocolate covered cherries. I always think of him when I see them.
But the gift I remember the most came when I was about 13 for my birthday.  A large box arrived in the mail. When I opened it, it was like a treasure chest to me. There were about 20 paper back books from novels to non-fiction.  One was a book on writing--he knew I loved to write. It was a wonderful, delightful gift to receive so many books at one time. I always remember how special it was to me.
Uncle Joe often talked about writing a joke book. When he was in his 80's he got serious about it. He wrote down all original jokes on pieces of paper and then categorized them. I remember visiting him when he still lived in senior housing and he had the papers laid out on the table, chair, couch and coffee table. There was no place to sit! He had to carefully move them for us to be able to sit and visit. He let us have a preview of some of the jokes that he had written.
When he was in the nursing home, he continued writing jokes and my cousin decided to help him make this dream come true. At age 83, his book "Now THAT'S funny" was published. He had book signings at the nursing home, the first being on April Fool's Day.
I will treasure the remembrance of his loving, caring and especially fun spirit and he is an inspiration to know that you are never too old to make a dream come true.
I will always remember Uncle Joe with the greatest respect, love and a smile. I will leave with the quote that he used to close his book, "Gee I just love happy endings...Don't you? Think of me twice in a while. "Bye-Bye"."

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