At this same time, the small town of Urich (population 400), where my mother's family lived, was hosting its annual town reunion. It was held in the city park, and was replete with 4-H exhibits, programs on the pavilion stage, an all-school reunion, and a small carnival with games and rides.
Although he hadn't lived in the town in over twenty years, my mom's brother, my Uncle Bradley, had kept up with classmates and other friends and would have his chance to visit with so many of them that evening at the park. My mom and my aunt were exhausted from all the sorting and packing they had been doing, but my uncle cheerfully escorted me, my brother, and my two great aunts to the park, dressed as he always was in a coat and tie, even in August in Missouri.
Once at the park, my eyes fixed on a ride that I just KNEW I was big enough to go on. It was called The Octopus It had cars on the ends of each of its eight arms that would spin wildly as the arms rotated and bobbed up and down. One by one, each family member declined to ride it with me, until I turned my pleading eyes on my uncle, who, with only a moment's hesitation, agreed to ride with me. I was ecstatic!
Once on the ride and after it was too late to change my mind (no backsies), I realized I was TERRIFIED and this was the BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE. I clung to my Uncle Bradley's arm, fingers gripping tightly onto his jacketed arm and sobbing. He rode calmly, patting me until it was over.
I didn't know at the time how much my uncle hated things like rides called The Octopus. But he put that aside so that his seven year old niece could try something she THOUGHT she wanted to do. That's the kind of man he was.
My loving, caring uncle passed away early this morning, gone to be with his beloved wife, my Aunt Carolyn, whom he has missed terribly these past two years. He was a brilliant teacher and engineer. He was a gifted story teller. He was a veteran of World War II, when he flew planes at only 20 years of age. He was a terrific family man.
And some day, some small child is going to BEG me to accompany him or her on some horrible amusement park ride, and even though I would rather stick forks into my eyeballs, I'm going to remember that kind gentleman in his jacket and tie, hesitate for only a second, and say, "yes." I owe him that.
I'll miss you, Uncle Bradley. See you again someday....