Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An Uncle Called Home

This past weekend, I received some sad news that makes this hard to put thoughts to keyboard. My Uncle David left this earth for a better place. For the past two years, he had been fighting a battle with cancer that he finally lost to. He was a fighter for sure and I am proud to have called him my uncle.

My Uncle David was someone who I looked up to growing up. He was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, bowhunting, and boating. I used to love hearing the banter between he and my dad when we were out on Keuka Lake fishing for trout or smallmouth. It was hilarious and my uncle had a hilarious excuse for every fish that got off. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

I could tell story after story about my uncle. When I was in my early teens, I was fishing off the end of a dock at the lake when the NYDEC officers approached in their boat. They asked for my fishing license and when I reached into my pocket all I found was lint. I had forgotten it in the cottage! I explained the situation and asked my mom to bring it down for me. They asked my name and when they heard my last name they chuckled.

DEC Officer: 'Is David your uncle?' 

Me: 'Yes sir, he is.'  

DEC Officer: 'That's funny, we stopped and chatted with him last week and he had the same thing happen to him. Guess it runs in the family, huh?' 

We all laughed and they were kind enough to give me a warning and shared a few fishing stories about my uncle. He was known pretty well around the lake for being a good fisherman amongst fellow boaters, fishermen, and the occasional DEC patrol. To me he was just my Uncle David.

When I was 16, my uncle took me out deer hunting to one of his favorite spots. It's a place outside of Penn Yan, NY that brings back fond memories for me. He and my dad had actually taken me through this spot when I was younger hunting for partridge. I couldn't hit the broadside of the sky, but we came back with birds (thanks to them)! This particular chunk of land is a spot my dad took me hunting many times and to be honest, it's one of my favorite spots to be in the world. It is quiet and teeming with wild game. My uncle always treated me like a friend and never once did he say a cross word to me or get visibly mad at me. I cannot tell you how good that made me feel. I was able to fill my deer tags that morning and it was an awesome day. I am still grateful for that day. He took time out of his day and put me in his treestand. We ended up seeing more bucks that day than I ever have in that spot. It was a pretty remarkable day.

This past Monday morning I did not feel like running, but I kept thinking about my uncle. He fought until the day he died and I am sure he would have given anything to go running, so I got up and went running. Along the way, about a half mile in, my back started to get tight and I wanted to quit. Instead I stretched out and ran some more. I must have repeated this four or five times in the first two miles alone. I felt like my uncle was right there encouraging me to keep going. Not pushing me, but encouraging me. That's how he always was. Encouraging and not pushy. I know those elk will be running in Colorado this fall and he'd give anything to be there hunting them, too. I ran faster at times and finished the morning run tired, but grateful. When I got home, the evening was beautiful and I decided it would not go to waste. I got on my bicycle and just rode. It felt so good to ride and for twenty miles I had fond memories of my uncle running through my head.

My mind is flooded with great memories of my uncle and that is enough for me. I will miss my uncle and I know that God is going to have quite a few laughs when the two of them start sharing fish stories.

'You know God, I once caught three trout on one lure.' 

'That's great David. I once caught a whale using Jonah as bait. He even brought the bait back. Isn't that right Jonah?' 

I can almost hear the belly laughs from here.

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