The Wind Up Is…
Last week, I lost one of my favorite people, GREAT Uncle Joe. He was like my third grandpa. For 99 years, he disarmed people with his charm, engaged people with his animated storytelling and had the most wonderful laugh! At times, he knew more about me than I did. “The Wind Up Is” that we were spoiled for a very long time. I’ll miss our weekly bonding sessions but am so thankful for our time together.
Joe was not only passionate about sports all of his life, but was a very successful editor at the Chicago Daily News, with but a 10th grade education. There was a really nice article in the Chicago Sun-Times about him last Tuesday afternoon and I read it frequently. He always impressed me with how he worked his way up and had an amazing work ethic but also had time to know everything about everyone in the family. The Chicago Sun-Times referred to him as a “golden sweetie” on his last birthday and that is spot on.
He was the kind of person that even if you didn’t know him, you felt like you did and wish that you did. He had that kind of voice that was unique so you always knew who it was on the other end of the phone. He was polite, enthusiastic, and really entertaining. I don’t ever remember being sad around him, I always had a good time with him. How many people REALLY make you feel like that?!
Even, during the last few months, when he was having a really hard time, he had his sense of humor. When my brother won an Emmy last month, he said, “That’s a big deal and I bet that award is heavy!” We could be talking about the Olympics, the Tour De France, the White Sox or the Northwestern Wildcats. He was fascinated by all of it.
One of my favorite moments with Uncle Joe was when he was almost giddy and would put people in a trance, like the time, earlier this year, my dad, his wife, Joe and I were at dinner and the ice princess came over to wait on us. Historically this woman was as morose as they come. However, she spotted Joe’s full head of hair, sparkling eyes, and friendly smile and was down for the count. Her voice softened, the food tasted better and she gave us anything we wanted.
I was very lucky to work within a mile from where Joe and Audree, his wife, lived for almost 15 years. This allowed me to make site visits as needed and have many meals.
A couple of years ago, Audree hurt her back so I dashed over to see a wide-eyed and heartbroken man worried about his damsel in distress. Later that day, we left for the doctor. During our entire doctor’s office adventure, he put everyone at ease and cracked jokes. He jested, “Audree this doctor can’t be that bad, he’s wearing a CUBS shirt.”
Joe was kind of like a traveling stand up comedian who also offered a wealth of knowledge in my family history and sports. He was so comforting and funny that I wanted to bring him to MY doctor’s appointments.
On the ride home from the doctor, he expressed his concern that I had taken time off from work to help them out. He wanted to know if I was out any money. I assured him that my paycheck would be the same this pay period versus the last one. But, a couple of days later, in the mail, I spotted a Thank You card with a very generous check enclosed for “lost wages”.
Later that week, with my newfound cash, I went to my college reunion. I spent it on my school’s swag. I wore the long-sleeved shirt on Sunday at a family gathering. It was nice, because it felt like Joe was still with us.
He was laid to rest last Friday and I was thankful that I was able to eulogize him at the funeral. One thing that hit me was a poem that was read during the service called “If Tomorrow Never Comes”. It talks about regrets and not taking things for granted. I could just hear Joe saying, “Ohhhh Yeah” in complete agreement. As the poem was being read, I thought about our last encounter that was just a few weeks earlier.
He always tried to shake my hand when we parted ways. I tried to train him to do the fist pump and he would look at me curiously. However, the last time we said “good-bye”, I must have known it was “THE GOOD-BYE”. I blocked his handshake with a big hug and kissed him on the forehead while saying, “I love you, Uncle Joe.”
That “wind up” is a treasured exchange that I will keep with me for a very long time.