Uncle Larry was my mother’s younger brother. He was killed in a car crash on Christmas Eve, 1983.
I have many happy memories of the short time I had with him. He took Jenny and me to DisneyWorld. He’s there in all of my favorite childhood beach memories (I still think of him every time I shake some Sargassum weed into a pail to see if I can find a shrimp or crab). I loved to go fishing with my dad and him in St. Andrews Bay.
It’s the so-called little things that have really stuck with me, though. He’d eat my mandated squash casserole at Thanksgiving when no one was looking. The first time I ever saw a praying mantis, it was crawling over his fingers. I played Atari for the first time at his house (Air-Sea Battle, though his was Target Fun, which was the Sears Tele-Games rebranded version of it).
There was a lot of big kid in Uncle Larry. He loved video games, science fiction, and fast cars, so it’s little wonder a 12-year-old boy would be particularly enamored of him. I wish he’d been around long enough to play Halo, or see 600-bhp Corvettes, or experience The Matrix.
There was a serious man in him, too. I hate that I never got a chance to have an adult-to-adult relationship with him. He was a man of uncommon faith. He loved Christ deeply, and led a ministry for the mentally challenged at his church. His favorite book of the Bible was Daniel.
It’s fairly clear that he wasn’t altogether happy when he died. His marriage had known rises and falls, and it’s difficult to determine what all happened. On this topic and others, my mother and grandmother were both queens of misdirection (or, barring that, just plain old silence), and while some of their details seem trustworthy, I’m certain the story I have is incomplete and probably only moderately accurate.
I am reasonably satisfied, however, that he took on and kept more burden than he should have. I would have sought and appreciated a grown-up conversation with him about that. I suspect some substantial inconsistencies in our respective understandings of the concept of God’s will.
Nonetheless, I am grateful for the opportunity to look back at his giving spirit in the context of my life today. I’m not sure how wise I am at this point, but I do think I’ve done enough living to start getting handles on some of it, you know? Uncle Larry’s there for it.
I miss him. I wish Lea could have known him. I wish our boys could have known him.