My Uncle Jim passed earlier today and the world is poorer for it. He was surrounded by family, prayers, and love. I wish I had been able to talk with him one last time and share a laugh and a tear. He was my favourite uncle, probably because I had spent some formative years in his company, and I am a better person for it. My thoughts go out to his wife, Ruth, his children, and his sister Mabel - your sadness is shared by many.
A few years ago, Uncle Jim was in the hospital and I penned a few thoughts at the time - they follow below.
March 1, 2008
My days of being a wrangler came to a close when Uncle Jim decided that I should paint the farm house, a brick, 8 storey edifice that had faded wood trim at the very top, shrouded in clouds, or so it seemed to a young boy barely taller than the aforementioned calf. Up the rickety wooden ladder I climbed with paint can and brush held with the white knuckles of one hand and the other clutched to the rungs, as I pushed myself further skyward on wobbling legs. At the top end of the ladder, I had to stretch as far as I could and still came up short of the actual peak, but I stole a glance at the ground when I heard my uncle standing there laughing so hard he was crying - the very top never did get painted that summer, but many years later, I had a painting business with 5 crews working and I didn't allow them to leave the worksite without painting the very top, or I'd climb up and do it myself.
Another responsibilty, that long ago summer, was keeping the barn clean and I attacked the corridors with a push broom and much enthusiasm and he always expressed his pride in my efforts. Along with sweeping straw and hay, there was the need to keep various areas directly behind the cows and some hog living quarters, clean as well. This required the use of a shovel, a strong back and a concerted disregard for my sense of smell. Shovelling shit became my specialty and if you have read this far, you will see that that lesson was also well taught.
thanks Uncle Jim