Being There

This weekend, Abbi and I were feted at the third of three engagement parties.

Early in the evening, kneeling there in my seersuckers, suede bucks and blue blazer, my uncle — my Godfather, in fact, who’d travelled some 970+ miles to spend these brief moments together — said to me, “Looks like life is treating you well.”

“It is,” I replied.

I puzzled over the statement in my head for a moment, wondering how he could tell, then immediately lept to the conclusion that if life is treating me well now, it’s certain to have challenges (or worse, tragedy) right around the corner. I knocked on my jaw (in lieu of wood) and carried on with my rounds.

A few days later now, I’m still moved by the comment. My uncle (my mother’s sister’s husband) has always held a special spot in my heart. He is (like many Iowa men) an imposing presence, probably 6’4″ 275. His words are well chosen, if few. He is a former marine who spent his career as a Central Iowa Power Company lineman, disappearing when called into the inky black, lightning strewn night. He could seem intimidating. Instead, though, he seems warm. There are smiles tucked away in the upturned corners of his eyes.

When I was about five-years-old and sick with some respiratory illness that left me wheezing and short of breath, he sat down in the rocking chair, took me into his thick arms, and rubbed my back until I fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

Years later, on Christmas Day just after my parent’s divorce, it was my uncle who drove to Clinton, Iowa, to make the custody swap on behalf of my mother. It must have broken his heart too to suddenly feel so disconnected from his old friend my father, let alone read the sadness on his nephew’s faces.

This morning, then, it moves me still to think of his comment Saturday night. I’m glad I seem like life is treating me well. It is, though I’m not sure (short of the beautiful blond on my arm) how he could tell. Either way, I’m grateful, if a bit dubious.

That said, even if (when) life’s challenges come around, it’s comforting to know — and this is one of the lessons I’m learning in beginning a family — that he will be there for me. That’s really all we have for one another, isn’t it? Being there. And it’s more than enough.

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