Okay, so it's not really a million miles, but today it seems like a million miles! It is, though, a whole great big country away-from the east coast in Pennsylvania to the west coast in Sun City, California. That is a long way when your heart is tugging you in that direction.
Yesterday my Uncle Jim thought he was going to die...then last night he hoped he wouldn't disappoint anyone if he didn't! He continues to amaze me every time he rallies around and I wonder how many times, over the last few years, I thoroughly expected him to die at any moment and he hasn't! (Besides his many health issues for some reason he has always seemed "old" to me. I don't know why except that he has the "California raisin" skin of an outdoor man...a lifeguard, a motorcycle policeman, an oil man. I guess a life lived around the water and the sun can do that to you.)
But, more than likely, he probably will leave this world soon. He is ready. He is tired. He struggles for every breath and has never fully recovered from a fall several months ago. His once vigorous, active life is now spent between his bed and the couch and the doctor's office, but somehow the "Energizer Bunny" part of him just keeps ticking away, regardless of the condition of his frail body. Maybe it's because he knows how much he is loved...I wonder?
Uncle Jim, I know you know this. You have always known this...how much I love you and my Aunt Lynne. (I know, in life, we're probably not supposed to have favorites, but I do and so do you.) You have both been like parents to me. Your love for me has always been unconditional and precious and far beyond special.
My memories of you as I grew up, Uncle Jim, are just as clear and distinct as those I have of my dad. I'll never forget the day you taught me to waterski. Your patience knew no bounds, whether you were driving the boat or in the water with me helping to keep my skies straight, your encouragement was just what an unsteady seven year-old needed. Could you hear me singing at the top of my lungs, once I got up, "Climb, Climb Up Sunsine Mountain!" I can still feel the joy and the sense of freedom flying over the waves of the Saltan Sea!
I have no idea how many summers I spent with you in Bakersfield....all of the good ones, for sure! You probably don't know this, but you were at the center of one of the most embarrassing memories of my young life. Do you remember the day I walked in on you and Aunt Lynne right after you got out of the shower? I ran back outside and jumped in the pool and, when you came out in your police uniform to say good-bye, I ducked under the water, hoping for dear life, that you were gone before I ran out of oxygen. I can laugh at that now...but it took a long time!
Do you know that every New Year's Day I wish you a "Happy Birthday" in my heart. Your birthday has never passed that I haven't thought of you...and then remembered the Christmas and New Years that Lisa and I spent with you while Mom and Dad and the boys went to Oklahoma. I don't know why we got the best part of the Holidays that year, but I do remember that you celebrated a little too much and chased us girls around the house until we locked ourselves in the bedroom laughing and gasping for breath!
So many memories wrapped up in you. I will treasure them always, but I treasure this the most... I have always known how much you love me. I have always known I am "your favorite!" And that is one of the greatest blessings of my life. Thank you. I love you right back! And whether I see you again here or someday beyond this life, I know that I will see you again and I take comfort in that.
"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always."
(Aunt Lynne, I also have many precious memories of you, as well. Like the day we stood in the bathroom and I told you that Jim Thomas had asked me to marry him and you said, "Oh Honey, lot's of guys are going to ask you to marry them!" And you gave me open access to your fingernail polish and your makeup! Oh my...how easy I was to please then!)