My Dad's older brother turns 89 years old today, January 21st. Uncle Bill has always been my favorite uncle on my dad's side. We didn't get to see him as much as I would have liked, but when he brought his family down to visit from Superior, Wisconsin, or whenever we went up there to visit, it was always very special.
My memories of our visits are too numerous to go into here, but one of the biggest is Cribbage. It was a game that my uncle loved, and I wanted to learn, so he taught me to play. We would play every time one of our families visited the other. We played for hours. I seldom won, because Uncle Bill was very good, and he didn't believe in "letting you win" a game. This made the victories very sweet. I would have known if he was letting me win, and I would have hated it. I learned the game very well, and I learned good sportsmanship, because you see he was a good winner and a good loser. When I won he made me feel like I had really accomplished something. We loved the game so much, that he even tried very hard to figure out a way to play by mail. That was back in the day before people had their own computers, so there were no online games. Try as we might, we never could come up with a workable way to play Cribbage by mail...unfortunately.
My Uncle Bill converted an old bus into a "motor home" for his family to travel in. Man, that was something! We loved to ride around in that, and since it would hold us all, it was the mode of transportation when our families got together. I remember one time, when we cousins were little, and we had gone for ice cream. There were about 5 of us little kids, including his youngest son, Jimmy eating at the table in the bus. Uncle Bill said, "The first one who spills, gets to lick it up." Well, it took about 1 minute for Jimmy to spill his ice cream...on the floor. So Uncle Bill, choking back a laugh said, "Well, lick it up." Jimmy turned several shades of green, and started to get down from his chair. Uncle Bill yelled through his laughter, "Eeewww, don't lick it up!!!" A very relieved Jimmy, watched as his dad cleaned it up. We all thought it was the funniest thing...including Jimmy, who was a big kidder himself, and always loved a good joke. (Jimmy passed away February 1, 2006, from Mesothelioma, and I will always miss his humor).
I remember one time when I was about 11 or so, my dad, my uncle and I were going somewhere while we were there. It seems like it was to a cabin he owned, but I really don't recall for sure. As kids, my sisters and I had been allowed to sit on Dad's lap and "drive" the car...or steer while he worked the pedals...something you can't do these days. I asked Uncle Bill if I could do that, and he said, “Sure.” So I was sitting on his lap "driving" and the car started to drift toward the ditch. I said, "Uncle Bill, the car is going toward the ditch!" His response was, "Well, you better get it back in your lane then." He was so nonchalant and unworried...so I steered it back on the road. I learned to keep the car on the road that day. I'll never forget it.
My uncle has always loved genealogy, and it is he who sparked my own interest in it. He has traced our family back many generations, has many photos, letters and other family memorabilia that he has collected over the years. I have learned so much from him about my heritage. I will always be grateful to him for this fun, and challenging hobby. I'm still looking for more family information.
My memories of Uncle Bill will always be fond ones, of life in a very different time...a time I will always miss a little. Happy birthday Uncle Bill. I love you.