On the occasion of my Uncle Bob’s 75th birthday, I have been thinking a lot about him and what he has meant to me over the years, especially during my childhood. His presence is forever intertwined with the memories of my Grandfather and our summers at the farm. The farm was a refuge for me and my brothers and sisters. It was a safe haven from the craziness we endured at home. There was booze and harsh words and darkness at home, for the most part. There were good times, too, but the constant fear of what bad thing might happen next was a never ending presence in the back of our minds.
Not so at the farm.
The farm was peace. It was home made quilts and pancakes and the smell of fresh hay and lowing cattle and percolating coffee and calm adults laughing quietly at the kitchen table. We walked through the front door and smelled the wood-stove and felt the hard wood floor under our feet and just like that the weight of fear lifted from our narrow shoulders and we were kids again.
Uncle Bob, along with Aunt Sharon and the cousins, was a big part of our summers there. If Grandpa and Grandma showed us the meaning of peace and sanctuary, then Uncle Bob and Aunt Sharon showed us that families with moms and dads and kids were real and not fantasies like the Brady Bunch or Leave it to Beaver.
Uncle Bob was the exact opposite of almost every male parental figure we had known. He did not smell of beer and cigarettes. He was not moody or quick with the back of his hand. His idea of correction was not to demean or belittle, but to teach. He was calm and affable, with an easy laugh, and a sincere appreciation for the inherent worth of those around him. Like his father, Grandpa Perry, Uncle Bob showed us that the true worth of a man lies not in what he does for himself, but in what he does for others.
It was a simple thing, really, what Uncle Bob did for us kids all those lazy summers ago on Grandpa's farm. Simply by being his father's son, he made us feel good about ourselves again. A chip off the old block, indeed.
Happy birthday, Uncle Bob.