There are certain people in this world that are always smiling. The ones that their life may be crumbling but they continue on with a laugh and smile for you. They are hard working and lovable. Unforgettable.
My Uncle Johnny was that man for our family. We lost him to a massive heart attack this past Friday and he will be laid to rest Tuesday. I’m not here to talk about the sadness the entire family and all who knew him feels, but rather how to remember and honor him.
I remember two things about my Uncle Johnny. He loved to eat and he could shake down an entire house with his “jumpy leg”. I’m pretty sure he did a variety of jobs but my favorite was when he was working for local farmers and would come to the house for lunch. Mom had a sandwich of some kind for him every day. It was a meatloaf with fried potatoes sandwich, bacon and tomato, fried bologna, or my all time favorite, a fried egg sandwich. He loved those so much! Mom could have a fried egg sandwich, with Miracle Whip, on the table in just a shake. He would sit at the table eating his sandwich, shaking his big leg and everything rattled like a minor earthquake was hitting us. He would eat at least two sandwiches and whatever kind of dessert Mom had cooked up. Because back then, Mom didn’t work and she kept a dessert made daily like a Suzy Homemaker.
Uncle Johnny had a rough life from what I understand because it happened early in my life and I don’t really remember, but it didn’t dampen his big smile and his snickering laugh. Of course, most of this came second hand through the many tales that was told on him by his siblings, mostly my mother. I’m figuring there is a bit of bias there.
He was a rough and tumble boy that continually “drove a big truck”. He would VVVRRRRRR and CHUG CHUG CHUG and shift through all 13 gears as he shuffled his feet through the dirt kicking up tons of dust. He also was known to baptize cats and get extra whippings at school. I just can’t see my uncle ever doing anything bad enough to deserve a paddling. He was a fun loving saint! I think fun loving was the part that got him in a bit of trouble and the saint part came later in life.
After he grew up, I remember him bringing his three kids over and us all playing together. He raised them and took care of them like a mother hen. He had been handicapped in a horrible domestic dispute but it didn’t hinder him in the least. He continued taking care of those kids like nothing was wrong at all. Honestly, he didn’t even consider himself handicapped because he just kept on chugging along. Sometimes we would go to their house and mom would hop in and help out with the cleaning or whatever needed done while we kids romped in the yard with whatever dogs had wandered up.
He married a lady named Liz. She was so good to his kids and treated them just like her own child, Laura. We visited them one time when they had moved off around Hope. Dad and Uncle Johnny had went off to do something manly and Mom and Aunt Liz went somewhere too, maybe a yard sale. This left me in charge of cooking… I was plenty old enough but my mother had an F for teaching me cooking. She loved it and just always did it. I was content flopping down at the table and heaping my plate. Thank goodness Mom and Aunt Liz came in to save me. I had begun frying eggs. They were basically swimming in a deep fry and Aunt Liz laughed and said she liked her eggs like that. She passed away some years later and left Uncle Johnny alone with his kids once again not to mention a broken heart.
After a long courtship, he married Marty. Marty is quiet and loved him with all her heart. Unless they were working they were rarely apart. I still think of the times they would come visit my father in law and get some plants or produce from him. They were always arm in arm and giggling like a couple school kids.
The entire community loved Uncle Johnny. He was handsome and gregarious. He never met a stranger and would talk to you like family upon a first meeting, even grabbing you for a bear hug. Anything he had he would share with a smile. I know many people like to tell how glorious someone was when they pass but I can do it knowing there isn’t a lie in it. He was a perfect uncle to all of us kids and a wonderful friend to everyone that knew him. Pray for all of us as we lay this wonderful man to rest. Pray also for us to be the friend he was to everyone. You won’t find a finer man this side of heaven but we can all strive to live up to his legacy and make him proud.