I had an uncle, my mom’s brother, who was a towering giant of a man. As a child when you were around him you felt incredibly safe and protected but at the same time, scared of him – you never want to anger a six plus foot tall man when you’re only three feet tall, lol.
I remember our families, my sisters and I and our cousin Rebecca spending a lot of time together when we were younger, before our families all settled in different areas and our lives became too busy for regular forays to visit family in other states.
We had a lot of fun, for a long time all of the kids in our family were girls until my cousin Wesley came along (named after my uncle). Regardless when we were younger we would all inevitably anger the big man, always far too late at night for us little girls to be awake and giggling, and we’d hear the giant bellow from the living room, “Girls, GO TO SLEEP!”. We would all gasp and close our eyes very tightly, laying as silently as we could in case he came to check.
And when he did, those footsteps through the house lasted an eternity! Rebecca always gave us away, she was defiant from the start, and that still hasn’t changed about her.
My uncle’s name was John, and he had a tour in Vietnam when he was young, lost a best friend there. In the late 90’s when I was still too wrapped up in my own teenaged life to notice, my uncle started battling the big C. Cancer.
I didn’t really become cognizant of the battles he was going through until my son and I got our own place and I became much more involved with my family. (my marriage had isolated me from them).
I remember one year when my uncle was having a particularly hard time, and this was after battling cancer off and on for probably ten years or so, and he had indicated to the family that he didn’t want to fight it anymore. I was devastated, my uncle had been a deacon in mine and my sister’s baptisms and we all felt a closeness to him, almost like a father to us. My mother and I arranged to visit for a weekend and did, staying in a motel room and visiting with my Grandfather while we were in Oklahoma, where my uncle had settled.
After we came back home, I wrote my uncle a letter, and though I don’t recall everything that I said, I remember recording raw emotion and desperation like I’ve never felt before, pouring out of me into that letter. I wanted him to continue to fight, a big man such as he, a vehicle of God like himself, surely could push on and beat this, just around the next corner.
He continued to fight after that, and I wrote a few more letters to him, but increasingly his health got worse, and for most of the last I’ll say two years of his life, he was in declining health and leaving home less often.
In the spring of 2006 we buried my Uncle. It was a very hard time for our family and we’ve all struggled since that time to remain close and in touch, sometimes when family suffers a loss like this it’s hard to get together without thinking of those we’ve lost. My grandmother, who is a confirmed saint, had to bury her oldest son – and her best friend. I have a huge frog in my throat as I write this, it was an incredibly painful time for all of us.
Days like tomorrow remind me of him, and the Agent Orange that he was exposed to in Vietnam that eventually took his life. When I look at my cousin Rebecca it pains me to think about her having to continue her life without him in it, they always shared a closeness and a bond that was palpable to the rest of the family. I envied her relationship at times, as I didn’t have that kind with my own father.
I think about all the fathers and sons at war for our country right now and worry for them, praying to an unknown god that they will return to their families and enjoy a long and plentiful life.
This post is in memory of my Uncle, John Tuck, who fought and died for his country. I miss my uncle.
Pictured below: John & Rebecca Tuck.