No, not that Uncle Buck, the one I was lucky enough to know.
My Uncle Buck was one of my mother’s brothers and a true original in every way. I don’t know that he was a saint, and he probably wasn’t, but he played a significant part in my childhood memories. This is a man who was always there for my family. Not in financial ways because it wasn’t possible, but in small ways. The small ways that a mind can latch onto and construct into a memory.
I have vague recollections from early in my existence. An extended visit to his house comes to mind. A visit that ended with my father and Uncle Buck carrying a bathroom toilet out to the front lawn in hopes of retrieving whatever it was we had flushed down.
Skip forward several years and you will find me and my crazy redneck family in Mt. Calm, Texas. A small, inconsequential, town in central Texas that just happened to be an old family homestead on Mom’s side. One Christmas, in the abject situation we found ourselves, here comes Uncle Buck with a huge chocolate chip cookie, complete with a big red bow. He drove all the way up from Houston to make sure we had it on Christmas Day.
The summer of ‘84, still in Mt. Calm, found wonderful Sister Debbie and I on a Greyhound Bus heading for Houston. We were staying at Uncle Buck’s house for a month. My grandmother was there and would be watching out for us, but Uncle Buck is who I remember most. He’d have us jogging around his neighborhood at night to stay in shape, and on his days off he’d take us to the movies, even if he’d seen the film before. I remember him pulling out the entertainment section of a newspaper. We’d look over options and theater locations, then make our decision. That summer we got to see The Karate Kid and The Natural. It was a big deal because I don’t remember ever having gone to the movies before, and I didn’t go again until my college years.
My Uncle had a little yellow Volkswagen Beetle during that Houston visit, and we’d zip all over town in it. I remember an incident on a Houston Freeway where traffic came to a stand still. Somehow Uncle Buck ended up having words with another driver. This driver actually got out of his car, tire iron in hand, and started yelling at my Uncle through the open driver’s window. Buck smiled graciously and continued nodding his head, even when the other driver was rude and degrading. Later, I remember asking why he didn’t say anything in response. He looked at me, smiled what I like to call his Cheshire Cat smile, and said, “He was looking for a fight and I wasn’t going to give him one.”
As a teenager in Weatherford I remember Uncle Buck flitting in and out of my life less often. Then as a young college graduate, holding down my first full time job, I went to Houston for a week to attend the Texas Library Association conference. True to form, my larger than life Uncle was there one night to take me out to dinner. This time he had a big white pickup truck that I remember him zipping through Houston traffic with, scaring the hell out of me with every lane change. I can remember the restaurant and the easy way we talked, but what I remember most was that my Uncle Buck was very proud of me.
Uncle Buck was at my Wedding 1999 and from what I understand he was a very colorful part of the festivities. He also made visits to Phoenix to spend time with my young family, but sometime after 2007 I stopped hearing from him. I know there were medical issues that came up and I remember sending him Christmas cards every year, but Uncle Buck never liked giving out his cell number so I had to rely on him to contact me. Eventually communications stopped.
About five months ago, out of the blue, he called me. The conversation was a little odd, but throughout it I just remember thinking how wonderful it was to hear the sound of his voice. We only talked for a little while. It was my last conversation with him.
I reminisce about all this now, because in early July I received a call from a hospital in Houston. They were contacting me as next of kin on my Uncle’s emergency contact paperwork. He’d been brought into the hospital unconscious and they were looking for someone to talk to about his medical conditions and needs. I got the hospital in touch with my mother, thinking it was something minor. As news flowed in, however, it became apparent that the call was the beginning of the end.
My mother is with him and it seems that all I can do now is remember. Remember, and reconnect. I’ve begun relaying information to family members who loved him as I did. It is my way of honoring this loving, enigmatic man I call my Uncle Buck.
Uncle Buck’s childhood is an unknown to me. I’ve heard stories and they weren’t all good, but that is for my Quirky Redneck Girl Book, not for this blog post. For this blog post I wanted everyone to know about a wonderful man who impacted my childhood in a small but great way. It appears that he is not long for this world, but his memory will cast a long shadow on the rest of my life.