Great Uncles Tell Great Stories
Updated: Oct 5
Over the years my love for immersing myself in sports has gotten me into trouble at many family events. Especially during my teenage years, I was expected to join the women in the kitchen during family gatherings, but I preferred to join the males in front of the TV, engrossed in just about any sport - especially football.
Until last weekend, I had no idea where my passion for sports came from. I mean, my English husband can attest that I even now understand the rules of cricket – both the one-day matches and the five-day test matches. Even on my own, I’ll watch football, basketball, rugby, hockey, baseball and don’t even get me started on the Olympics.
But I digress…
Last weekend, I accompanied my dad to the Detroit-area to visit his uncle along with my sister and my son. Dad is an only child. His father was an only child. His mother died when Dad was a freshman in college and she had one brother, Uncle Stan, who we were visiting. For the past 20+ years since my grandpa passed, Uncle Stan has represented my dad’s side of our family. We have always enjoyed visiting Uncle Stan - he is a wonderful, warm and adventurous character. At 92, we especially treasure his storytelling.
A couple years ago, I connected with Memoir for Me and we wrote my dad’s memoir. That experience spurred him to dig through numerous boxes of old pictures and keepsakes. In preparation for the visit to Uncle Stan, Dad sorted through slides taken by his grandfather dating back to the 1940s.
Dad doesn’t have a slide projector (great future Christmas present) so Dad and Uncle Stan scrutinized the postage-stamp-sized slides trying to determine where, when and who. Most of the slides had some clues written but it was still quite a puzzle and once the pieces came together for a slide, the stories tumbled out from both Dad and Uncle Stan. One story led to another and the others present in the room enjoyed watching these two relive memories and fill in gaps in the stories. Some stories were emotional and eyes teared up. Other stories resulted in belly laughs. What a gift for everyone present!
The slide presentation also spurred Uncle Stan to take us on a driving tour the next day. We visited more than a dozen homes where either he or Dad lived. He explained how his parents lost their house during the Depression and lived upstairs in many family or friend’s houses for a few years before landing on their feet again. The tour also highlighted the tree Uncle Stan tied Dad up to as a prank ages ago. Neither recalls why this happened but they both recall how much trouble Uncle Stan was in after the fact.
Throughout the weekend many questions couldn’t be answered and we acknowledged that we’d never know the answers – such as how Dad’s parents met. No idea.
One question that was surprisingly answered for me: my mild-mannered and patient grandma was a feisty hockey fan. She was even known to pick fights with strangers at Red Wings games! This new tidbit definitely conflicts with the vision of Grandma meticulously translating books into braille. I didn’t have the chance to meet my grandma and I’m named after her. I cherish the idea that she is the root for my passion for sports.
We drove 10 hours to spend approximately 25 hours sitting and talking with Uncle Stan. The weekend ended too soon. Each story, each laugh, each tear is priceless.