I don’t know if I’ve ever fully expressed the gratitude I feel and the honor that I bestow upon my uncle’s. I grew up with great uncles. These were men of great imperfection, but their love and attention to me as child was perfect. And so I thought that I would blog about my uncle’s. Celebrate the role each of them is playing in my life. They are all still living, and I’m so grateful to God that I can share now my adult life and even my own son with my uncle’s.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Proverbs 3:1-2
I can’t quite remember the time or the year or even how long I was there, but I vividly remember the smell, the look, color of his van. It was a swagg-a-docious Econoline 150 made by the Ford Motor Company. It had red velour seats with the captains chairs in the back. I remember feeling as if that was the coolest place I could ever be; riding in the van with uncle Ernie. In that van, I was introduced to one of the biggest influences of my musical and thought life; Stevie Wonder. Big E was a school teacher in the inner city of Grand Rapids. Which in my mind was okay; but what made it very cool was that MY uncle, was a basketball coach. He was a coach of young man and a former state champion and U of M superstar himself. How cool was I to have a 6 foot 8, slim, hook shot shooting, Stevie Wonder listenin’, pimped out van havin’ uncle who… was a school teacher. There’s a few things Big E taught me over my life and I like to share that now. First, he taught me that in life caring for people is important. I saw my uncle Ernie and Aunt Melita take in foster children, his kids on his teams seem to be like second sons. His own son, who didn’t live in the same city with him, seemed to have great summers with his dad. Now I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on behind the scenes, but Big E showed me that being a community person reaching out, teaching others, laughing and having fun with good music is all a part of life. Many of those traits I try to mirror for my own son and daughter today.
The other thing big he introduced me to was how to be wrong. We call each other “wrong brothers” even to this day. Not wrong in the sense of doing a bunch of dirt, but just the fact that men do make mistakes. And sometimes the stuff we do in our marriages, with our children; just the stuff that comes out of our mouths sometimes is laughable. He has given me permission to laugh at myself! I’m proud to be a nephew. I’m proud to call you wrong brother #1. Thank you for setting such a great example for me and for caring for me. Thanks for never missing the season. You didn’t make every game because you lived an hour away, but I can’t remember anything I did that you didn’t show up for at least something that was important to me! I love you and I appreciate you for those and many more gifts.
The next uncle I want to honor with this blog is my Uncle Milton. Uncle Milton is the oldest brother on my mother’s side of Fam. It was like Christmas time every time uncle Milton came around because he lived so far away, or what seemed so far away in my child-like mind. Uncle Milton’s an attorney in Chicago. And uncle Milton has several children. Uncle Milton taught me many wonderful things throughout my childhood.
First…Enjoy life. We would joke, laugh, cheat at games (lol…if you were in my family you’d know just how hilarious that statement is…) and have a great time.
As a child I wondered so much more about uncle Milton’s life in Chicago, and I was always glad to see him. At very special points in my life uncle Milton was there. I saw that although uncle Milton often took the road less traveled, uncle Milton loved his sisters, he loved his mother, and he especially loved his little brother Mike. And uncle Milton has been example to me on how to work hard, strive in life to do things better next time, and how to stand with faith in the face of great adversity. I love MY uncle Milton for loving me first. I love my uncle Milton for being a good man, and a good father, and one hell of an uncle.
I can’t remember to save my life where we were or when it happened; but I can remember like yesterday the day I heard my uncle sing “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross. I think he was rehearsing for a wedding somewhere, and I remember the lightly stained wood piano sitting in that anonymous room and somebody played the song for my uncle Mike. Mike broke out “One look in your eyes and there I see, just what you mean to me…” the day I heard my uncle’s voice changed my life. My uncle Mike; through his love and passion for music and arts awoken a love and passion for the arts and for music that spread far beyond my own limited gospel music roots. Uncle Mike sang like he was the only person in the room. Uncle Mike acted on stage as if it was him, God and that story. It didn’t matter the story. It didn’t matter the song, my uncle Michael taught how to find my own voice and to love it for the gift from God that it is. I hope and pray that whether I’m singing into the angels on high, or hitting a rip from Luther himself, that I’ll be able to be half the passionate, artistic, and upstanding man MY uncle Mike is. I love you.
When growing up, I’d enjoy my trip to Grand Rapids Michigan hang out with my Uncle Mel and his wonderful family. Uncle Melvin taught me the value of learning how to fish. And fishing was not just about the sport of fishing, it was about the bond that a man should have with nature. Waking up early on Saturday mornings; up, often before the sun to go follow your passion. Uncle Melvin taught me that while sitting there on the lake with you and God; you can cry, you can fart, you can even pee over the side of the boat and no one is bothered. Uncle Mel taught me a great lesson about life and that is that you have to find your passion place. You have to find that thing that quiets your soul and lift your spirits all at the same time. Uncle Melvin tell me how to do that on a fishing boat and I’m so thankful that he took the time and put up with me when I was afraid of worms. Uncle Mel, I’m not afraid of worms anymore and if you ever want to get together to put a hook in water; let me know; it’d be great to have a reunion in what is now both of our passion place.
Thanks to my Uncles for the role they played in making me who I am. Who played “Uncle” in your life?
Peace, Blessings, and Uncle-Time,