Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Memoir: Uncle Jay

Growing up in a small town meant always having family close around. This was great when it came to a particular uncle who just happened to live next door. Our trailer sat on the same property adjacent to my grandmother's home, which is where my uncle Jay lived. He was shorter than my father but then everyone on my mother's side is shorter. To me he was a giant with a heart of gold. He always spoke in a soft voice and when he spoke his eyes would draw you in and warm your soul. The famous quote "the eyes are the window to a person's soul" rings true as I recall the kindness I could feel just by looking in his eyes.

always thought my uncle lived with my grandmother because he never married, but he was drafted while still in high school at the age of 18. He served in WWII from 1943 to 1946 mostly in New Guinea and the Philippines . After the war he worked for the Western Union Telegraph Company which moved him all around the U.S. I learned years later he moved back home to help take care of my grandfather when got ill. My grandfather died several years before I was born so I never knew him. My uncle Jay moved home to take care of them both, and then just my grandmother.

Lunch time was always fun at Grandma's because my uncle would come home for lunch. We would sit down to eat when immediately he would start to pour his soda into a glass filled with ice cubes. No big deal right? But it was the way he poured his soda that caused my grandmother to have such a fit. He would start out pouring just above the glass' rim and end up holding the can high above the glass. I can still hear my grandmother getting after him for doing this. She just knew he was going to spill it all over the table, but he never did. He was always doing silly things like this that made me laugh.

In the evenings after supper at our home, we would walk back to my grandma's house to watch TV on her big console and have ice cream. Almost every night my uncle Jay would dunk graham crackers in ice milk. He loved to dunk but the milk had to be super cold, so he would add a few ice cubes. We are big dunkers in my family. We dunk most anything you can; graham crackers, Oreo's, bread, grilled cheese sandwiches in soup and my favorite, toast in hot chocolate. Again I thought my uncle dunked because he loved to, as I grew older I came to understand he had stomach problems and the milk helped sooth his upset stomach. He would die years later of stomach cancer.

Every week on a specific day my grandmother would bake. It seems as though my grandmother was one of the best bread bakers in our small town. And everyone seemed to know what day she baked on. I think my uncle Jay stayed close to home on the day she baked bread just so he could be the first one to have a slice when it came out of the oven. She would tell him to let it cool down but he never listened to one word she said. He would slather butter all over a thick slice and then top it with one of her delicious jams. I am here to testify, it didn't get much better. We all followed suit so there was little she could say. My uncle could easily down a loaf of her bread all by himself.

My uncle Jay loved animals, he had a yellow canary bird and a tom cat he named Carmel because of his stripes. I remember the bird would sit on my uncle's shoulder what seemed like forever. Once my sister and I tried to get the bird to sit on our shoulders but it only flew around grandma's house until we caught it. There were a few times it got out and we thought it would have to fly around until my uncle came home. That bird definitely knew who my uncle was. Carmel was a wanderer and would often be gone for days even weeks at a time. When he would come home he would be happy to see everyone but his favorite was my uncle. My uncle would scoop him up in his arms and pet him a long, long time. Carmel would not let anyone else hold him, but they were like two long-lost friends catching up on old times. I believe it was his gentle demeanor and kind heart that seemed to make animals at ease around him.

One of my favorite stories to tell about my uncle Jay is one I have shared before, but it's such a great story I have to quickly tell it again. Years ago there use to be a boat race from Green River, UT to Moab, UT. The fastest time would win the race. My father drove the boat while my uncle Jay would lay on the front of the boat to keep it from flying up. I'm assuming the speed was so fast and the boat so light it was easy to flip. One year my uncle and father won the race. They placed second in other years. In the picture my uncle is sitting on their boat with all the awards they won. You can see the small awards just to his right. If you look further right you will see the first place trophy, it's a large piece of petrified wood with a golden statue on top. By the grin on my uncle Jay's face it's obvious he loved every minute of racing and winning.