The house I live in has been in my family for four generations. It was built in the 1950s and was originally owned by my great grandparents. Now as I make the house my own, it has been important to me to preserve a sense of family and history. The person that was helping me with that was my Uncle Mark.
Up until a few days ago, my uncle and I were collaborating on different things I needed – a kitchen table, living room end tables, some planters for the yard. I’d dream up the idea and my uncle would build it. Just a few weeks ago I stepped back into the garage where my uncle did his carpentry and I was instantly transported to the days of watching him and my grandpa building bookcases and tables – the sound of the wood meeting the saw and the smell of sawdust brought back memories. Instead of watching my grandpa and uncle, it was my uncle and I working side by side.
It was just a few weeks ago that after I stained and painted this kitchen table, we both took a few steps back and admired the finished product.
“That came out even better than I expected. I might take and make a few more of these,” my uncle said. That was when I realized the pride he took in what he did, and how incredibly hard he worked.
It wasn’t just what he built that was appreciated. He always went out of his way to do what he could. I was feeling particularly frustrated recently that I wasn’t getting done what I needed in as quick of a time as I wanted, so one day my Uncle Mark just showed up and organized my garage. I told him he didn’t have to, but he said he needed something to do. He decided to pass the time and help me. When I walked out and saw all of what he managed to do, I just remembered telling him “thank you, you are helping me so much and you don’t know how much that means.”
His response, “Don’t mention it.” And he told me we’d work on what else we wanted to build together in the coming days.
But in those coming days were instead stories of my uncle I had no idea about. How he was an incredible gentleman walking teachers to their cars if it was getting late out. He was kind in that he, as a kid, let others play when they didn’t feel they were good enough, and he never needed the glory of the goal, he was always the one to pass the puck. But most impressive was that he was selfless in that he took someone who didn’t have any family and who he didn’t see eye-to-eye with to their cancer treatments. I can’t even fathom being that good of a person but somehow my uncle managed to be that.
When you grow up as a kid you see people for who they are to you. And for me my uncle was the first to get chair pads out to use as bases for a kickball game or saw horses as goals for street hockey. He’d take us to feed the ducks or would pull out his spotlight to go spot deer. There were endless rides to Chestnut Ridge or watching softball games at Memorial Field. And he’d always have the best fireworks show on the fourth of July.
These were the ways he took care of us and loved us. And recently I’ve realized he wasn’t just taking care of me, or my siblings, or his family. He was taking care of everyone. Everyone he met he saw good in and he helped no matter what. And when I hear these stories and I reflect on these memories I realize my uncle was the carbon copy of my grandfather. He was the best of my grandfather. His faith, his character, his kindness are very rare today and those qualities are what I hold close to me.
And as I look around my house which is now my home, I know that is in large part because of my Uncle Mark. For what he did to help me make it my own, for what he built for me, but mostly for the memories over these past few months of us working together. My Uncle Mark really showed me the importance of family and kindness and that what really makes someone special is when they are willing to make bettering someone else’s life their priority over their own. That is the simplest yet truest way to remember my Uncle Mark.