Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Uncle Bill and the circle of life

Life is about balance, I think. For instance, I can deal with reading through multiple project cost summaries regarding the district building a new school as long as I have Molly Hatchet totally jamming on my headphones. Or the soundtrack from Evita, a few tunes from Neil Diamond… whatever. I have eclectic tastes and moods when it comes to music.

Sometimes life is about karma, like when you go to a high school reunion and discover the snotty rich girl who made your life miserable in school because you were kindergarten buddies with her current boyfriend is now a thrice-divorced chubby woman whose disdain of people all of her life has gotten her just what she deserves.

And sometimes life just wraps around nicely, like in the case of my Uncle Bill. He put a story up on Facebook the other day that made me smile. He said when he got his very first job, with his first paycheck he bought a Milky Way candy bar and “chowed it down.”

Coming from a family with seven kids, I can imagine what a special treat it must have been.

Last week, Uncle Bill got his last paycheck. He is officially retired, and in a month, his wife will retire. Then the two are running away from home together. Literally. They are moving out of the United States.

When he got that last paycheck, Uncle Bill stopped in at a convenience store and bought himself a Milky Way candy Bar. He wrote that he doesn’t care for them anymore, so he handed it to a nearby youngster, then enjoyed the sight of the happy kid chowing down.

I love that story. I remember buying a 45 record when I got my first paycheck. I’m relatively sure that won’t be possible when I retire.

I haven’t seen my Uncle Bill in years – he moved to Las Vegas a few years back, and I didn’t see him last time I was there. Family is funny. Mine is large and a bit intermarried – my father’s older brother is married to my mother’s older sister. At one point, another brother was married to another sister, but that didn’t work out.

When Uncle Bill’s daughter Heather was born, I was a teenager. Somehow, I think because she was a pretty shy little girl, I ended up being her babysitter whenever the couple went out. They would come pick me up and I’d stay with my little cousin while they did whatever. When I got old enough, I’d drive to their apartment in Little Canada, sometimes staying for a day or two if it didn’t interfere with school. Heather was my little buddy, and when her brother Nathan was born I stayed with her for a couple days while her mom was in the hospital. I helped my aunt out other times, giving her a break from a colicky baby.

On my wedding day, Heather was about four years old, and I remember how much she loved my dress. As I stood in the reception line, she stuck pretty close, reaching out to touch it often. I’d look down and she’d be petting my dress with her little hand, all bright-eyed and shy smiles.

When it was time for my new husband and me to leave, I picked Heather up and hugged her, telling her I wouldn’t see her for awhile. It’s tough to explain the concept of becoming a Navy wife to a little girl, though, and all she understood was that I wasn’t going to come over to play with her anymore. She cried, and I did too.

I never saw her again. My uncle and his wife divorced, Eric and I moved around the country for a decade, and by the time we moved back to Minnesota… well, I didn’t even know where she lived. When I first hooked up with Uncle Bill on Facebook, I asked him about the kids, but I don’t think he ever answered that question.

Hmmm… I hadn’t really thought about that until just now. I guess you have karma, balance and sometimes just life.

Hopefully, at the end of the important junctures there are candy bars, no matter who does the chowing down.

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