Uncles

My brother sent me the picture below this morning. It’s a picture of my father, the man on the far right, and his four brothers. It was taken in the late 1960s. As far as I know, it’s the last photograph of them all together as my Uncle Pete, the man seated in the middle, passed away shortly after this picture was taken. Getting this picture from my brother brought back many powerful, wonderful memories. I wrote a short piece about uncles a few years back when one of them died. Here it is again:

Dyer brothers in the USA aprox 1965
Restored by Gary Rodgers / Magnum Images

I had seven uncles. One passed away this morning. I’m down to four. When I was a kid, my uncles seemed larger than life to me. They were smart, funny, strong, brave, and kind. One was a mountain of a man, strong as an ox, all farmer. Two were scientists, a third made a career out of the Navy. One was a crop duster, another an educator and historian, and one was so remarkably bright that I loved to simply listen to him talk. They were born in the 1930s and 1940s. Black and white pictures of them dressed in blue jeans and white t-shirts – young, lean men with so much ahead of them – make my heart full and make my heart ache all at once. I loved their smiles. I don’t have any memories of them that aren’t awash in those smiles, and I tell myself those smiles were for me. Now I am an uncle and I know the joy of being in the presence of my sister’s children. I suspect a similar joy filled the hearts of those fine, smiling men I’ve loved so much.