I didn't see my Uncle Vernon often, because after World War II he left the prairies of Illinois to raise his family in California. But, every few years, he and his family would come by train to stay at my grandparents. When I think of my uncle, I can't help but remember waiting anxiously for them to arrive at a big old depot that is no more.
When God was handing out uncles, I hit the jackpot. I didn’t get just one or two. Between my dad’s and mother’s sides of the family, I got eleven.
Uncle Vernon was the oldest, and though nearly 2,000 miles separated us, his love and wisdom seemed to catch an eastward wind and blow back to his home state of Illinois.
Our chances to visit through the years were much less frequent than I would have wished, but the lessons I learned from the distant patriarch of our clan will stay with me forever.
- Go west, young man (or east or wherever it is you belong), but do it.
- Watch for trains in the distance. You never know when they’ll come bearing loved ones.
- Savor old depots with warm wooden benches and Chiclets gum machines (or any other old building whose walls hold stories of days gone by).
- Love your brothers – and love your cousins as if they were brothers.
- Work hard and retire harder.
- Make your golden years platinum.
- See the world.
And there’s that one lesson he gently taught me that I didn’t learn very well: Just be quiet and listen.
As I think back, I can’t remember many of the words my uncle said – probably because I was too busy doing all the talking - but I can remember that he always listened.
And when he listened, Uncle Vernon’s eyes spoke for him, saying ever so gently, “I love you.”
© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012