The other night Eliza asked me to tell her a story about when I was a kid.
“Well at one point I lived on Can Do Court with my dad and my uncle. My uncle rode a motorcycle and had a white poodle named Spam,” I said.
“No,” she said. “Tell me a true story…”
I laughed because while I realized this story was a bit unorthodox it was, in fact, true. My childhood was dotted with characters and, at the time, my uncle was one of them. Along with the motorcycle he also had a wood paneled station wagon. We’d put the poodle in the back and drive all over. In summers we went to the driving range and he’d let me drive the golf cart. I was 8, he was in his early 20s. We were a pair. When he rode me on his motorcycle, I’d wear one of his helmets. Each time he’d start off I’d ram into the back of him, helmet first. This was after I got too big to ride on the gas tank. He was s teacher and we were on the same schedule. He took me to school after my dad had gone to work and he arrived just after I did from school.
When my mom and dad split, my dad needed help and my uncle needed a place to live other than my grandmother’s basement. He was my live-in manny. He loved to cook and he usually made a big mess when he did. He called me kid and Spam was a member of the family. He was a scrappy stray turned fixture in our house and he went everywhere with my uncle and me.
Every time I tell this story I usually get concerned looks from whomever I’m talking to. Their eyes ask if this story ends well, or is there some Appalachian twist no one ever talks about. The answer is a resounding no. My uncle moved with us, he took care of me and his dog. He played golf, I drove the cart. He rented Grease II at least 941 times. He was a good man, he is a good man. He came in when I needed him and he moved out when he met the woman who would become his wife.
The other day I saw him and his wife. They’ve been married 28 years now.
“This is him Eliza,” I said. “My uncle with the motorcycle and the dog named Spam.”
“Him?” she said. I’m not sure what she was expecting. My uncle wears little round glasses, he’s a highly thought of elementary school principal and father of two grown men. I got to have breakfast with one of his sons and his young wife a few days later. I told him a few stories of his father, stories he’d never heard.
My daughters may never be able to start a sentence with when I was a kid I lived on Can Do Court with my dad, my mom’s brother and his white poodle named Spam but I hope they will know people who will love them deeply and be as kind to them as my uncle was to me.