“Say, Uncle” is a tribute to another all important male figure in a child’s life. First this is not going to cover each unique family situation, there are exceptions to ever rule. I am going to use examples from personal experiences and observations, hopefully in a manner that will allow my readers to take and exchange for their own.
We all have a favorite relative outside the immediate family; here I am going to use the term favorite as simply an expression of blind admiration, be it grandparent, cousin, aunt, or uncle. One of these people simply connects with you in a way that make you feel special, and therefore they in turn are special to you.
Watching my son with his first and only niece over these past few years took me back to my childhood where I recalled my uncles. My family was large on both sides, I had 10 uncles. I had the serious one, the fun one, the mysterious one, the mean one and the one you barely knew. Each of my uncles fell into one of those categories or a slight variation. Without the benefit of the internet and cell phones, if you had a relative in a place not close enough to travel by car or walk to, you were very limited in contact. Holidays and special occasions were truly special. While there was a great presence of my family nearby, there were several that lived a good distances away. The funny thing about a favorite though, they manage to make you recall, remember and cherish them as if no time or space existed between you.
“Uncle Bud”was that guy for me. Although as life allows you to see flaws in things(i.e. my belief he was so special and only I had the benefit of seeing this fact), I realize he was not exclusively “my” favorite uncle. As my cousins and I have talked, he actually held that title in a number of our eyes. He was a truly special guy to have kids of his own and to manage to make his brothers’ kids all think he was the greatest man other than their own dad, well that is quite a feat. He gave me a large amount of money for my graduation gift, BUT what meant more than anything else was he came to California to be there and on top of that and stayed for a week. Just for me. I remember every dinner, sitting on the front porch laughing and talking, and his cigars. Now I think and thought cigars the most horrible. smelly, vile, nauseating things; BUT when it came to Uncle Bud, they were just a part of who he was, they didn’t even cause me to blink. He passed away many years ago, but I can always remember him with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. He was loved dearly.
I believe my granddaughter will have the feelings I had for my Uncle Bud for her Uncle Tio. The moniker was given to him by his brother, of whom he is very close to. I cannot tell you how many times people with command of the Spanish language and those who possess a very limited knowledge of it, tell us” you know you are saying Uncle Uncle.” We laugh as we have over they years when we talk of how people constantly ask what the “J” stands for(his name is JAY). At three his niece knows Uncle Tio IS Jay. He cradled her clumsily, as his brother did, on day one of her life on Earth. He colors with her, reads stories, dances to her Disney Movies, tosses her into the air to her delight, and shares his pizza. As she demonstrated the will of a three year old, he stood firm and made her sit quietly until she relinquished that she must do what Uncle Tio tells her to do and listen. A midst quite dramatic tears, she gave in and moments later all was forgiven and forgotten. Being a single 20 something man, who wants to make sure his niece knows of his involvement and love for her, makes him stand out. I cannot explain this completely; yet I know I am seeing it more and more, that’s a good thing. Pay attention in the mall, at doctor’s offices, and in photos on facebook; you may see that all important doting uncle standing by, on guard, with a toddler in tow or in arms.
In childhood games “Say Uncle” is used as a command to demonstrate who was in control; my “Say, Uncle” is an outcry to the fellows with nieces and nephews who need to know that there are other men in this world, outside their immediate family and besides their fathers, who will be present in their lives in a positive fashion.