Everyone Should Have a Tall Uncle

Everyone Should Have a Tall Uncle.

It’s true.

Of course there are the obvious reasons. In case you need to reach something on a high shelf, or perhaps their shoulders provide a perfectly unobstructed view in a large crowd.

But there are less obvious reasons too.

It makes a kid feel important when a tall uncle, complete with a resonant baritone and cowboy boots, acknowledges them. And not only acknowledges them, but acts surprisingly okay about being paired with them, despite a substantial and almost comical height difference, in a fiercely competitive three-legged race. Declaring with certainty that they had victory in the bag. (And they did.)

It makes a teenager bordering on the edge of adulthood feel relieved when her tall uncle and his wife travel long distance on short notice for her father’s funeral. This kid/adult notices how her distraught mother, now a widow, is innately soothed by her tall brother’s presence as she prepares to put her husband to eternal rest. “I think I should sit between you and my brother,” her mother tearfully announces. The 19-year-old nods in agreement. She’s trying to be helpful, but she’s kind of a confused mess herself, so she is especially thankful for the tall uncle’s commanding presence as well. Somehow, just him being there makes everyone feel like we will get through this mournful event.

It makes a young wife feel amusement observing her husband’s reaction to her tall uncle’s interactions. The young woman’s father departed this life so many years ago her husband never had a chance to meet him. She has no older brothers. She feels a reaffirmation of love and a rush of satisfaction observing her husband in “stand down” mode, out of patriarchal respect to his superior. Her tall uncle never breaks character as he instructs her husband to grab a beer, and together they quietly stand and watch old videotaped footage of her tall uncle’s beloved Winnebago burning. One of the saddest days of her tall uncle’s life. Her husband responds with just the right amount of interest and sympathy to be considered masculine and win the tall uncle’s approval. Her husband watches this video with rapt attention in it’s monotonous entirety until the bitter end. Her husband wouldn’t do this for just anybody. But he does for the tall uncle.

It makes a woman bordering on middle age, now a mother herself, feel like she can finally see a glimmer of healing after her mother, the tall uncle’s sister, has suddenly died. The entire family has gathered for a memorial service, and it is finally giving the woman some much-needed closure. Later, the tall uncle requests a small fireside gathering of family, where no one really speaks of the enormous loss we are grappling with. We are mainly all taking comfort in being together in a warm room on a cold evening. Eventually the time draws near for the group to disband, and as the woman prepares to leave, the tall uncle breaks down in tears. The woman is initially surprised. Her tall uncle once laughed quite hard at one of her silly jokes, and to this day she never knew if he found it truly funny, or was just being nice, or maybe had too much to drink. Regardless, his laughter infected the entire table and she felt like a rock star. But she never imagined she and the tall uncle would ever be weeping about anything together. She couldn’t even imagine this tower of strength weeping about anything at all. “I guess this is what it really means to grieve,” she thought to herself, as the tall uncle and his niece shed tears together for exactly the same reason.

Now the tall uncle is gone. And just for the record, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a tall uncle replacement when you are 54 years of age. Well, I suppose one can find almost anything online, but that’s not the type of relationship I’m looking for! I will have to content myself with the memories, as we all must. As anybody who has lost someone meaningful must.

We don’t get over it, we somehow get on with it. Live in the moment. Savor all the details. Smile at the little things. And the tall things too.

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