His name was Mystery. From his work to his personal life to his feelings, he kept himself shrouded in secret and surprise. Some mystery was to be expected; he worked as a government contractor through most of our lives and couldn’t share his work. But he rarely let anyone know his plans, either, and you wouldn’t know he meant to travel until you woke up and he was gone.
His name was Stubborn. He lived his life as he desired, refusing to bend, refusing to meet societal norms—but I couldn’t say he danced to his own drum, because I never saw him dance. Instead, it was a steady march, head held high as he made things happen his own way.
His name was Adventure. From world travels to seemingly spur-of-the-moment cross-country trips. We used to see his race car on his trailer, hitched to the same truck he always drove, and never wonder if he’d come back from each expedition. He always did, with new stories and often with tokens from his travels. We’ll never know all the places he visited, but that was part of his Mystery, and I think he liked it that way. At the very end, his truck had carried him more than half a million miles. It’s a wonder it still runs. Although…
His name was Skill. He never met a mechanical object he couldn’t repair. His garage was always littered with projects that might frighten anyone else. From lawn mowers to fighter jets, he could fix it all. But he was Stubborn, and sometimes his repairs were unconventional. When he rewired our Power Wheel to run off a car battery, we were gifted the fastest Power Wheel anyone had ever seen. And when the additional power caused it to tear holes through the plastic tires, he was ready and willing to fix those, too.
His name was Intelligence. He had to be smart, to do what he did, but he also solved unique puzzles and excelled at thinking outside the box. Yet his was a kind of intelligence that never intimidated. He knew how to speak to anyone, to teach and share, to help children understand the complex work at his fingertips.
His name was Patience. Adults might contest it, as he didn’t have much to spare for adults who ought to know better. But children loved him and gravitated to him, everywhere he went. As an adult, I realize it hindered his work to have small people underfoot, but he never complained. When a small hand marred the finish of his freshly detailed show car, or landed in wet paint and forced him to strip and redo entire projects, there was never a reprimand to be heard. “Be careful, now,” was all you’d get as he ushered you away and then repaired your mistakes.
His name was Quiet. Through a good portion of my life, he shared a home with my great-grandmother. When he wasn’t working or traveling, he was often in the garage. You always knew when he was in the house; his was an unimposing presence, instilling a sense of calm peace. He had strength and a fiery temper that could come to the surface when necessary or provoked. But most of his life was quiet, surrounded only by the whirring engines he loved.
His name was Kindness. He was good to everyone he met, but never allowed anyone to take advantage of it. Though he held strong opinions, he didn’t let them sway the way he treated people. He offered respect and appreciation, and did not let the difficulties in his life color the way he behaved toward new people.
His name was Honesty. Sometimes truth hurts, but if you deserved it, he wasn’t one to spare feelings. It struck a unique balance with him as Kindness, but it worked harmoniously. Sometimes the kinder thing was truth, and he gave it freely, like many other things. He never offered sugared words or anything meant just to make you feel better. What he said was how it was, whether or not you liked it.
His name was Generosity. I’ve seldom met someone with such a giving spirit as his. He gave often and freely to those he loved. He gave the best gifts and always seemed to know what a kid might want. Had my mom known he intended to give us a trampoline, she might have protested. So he left her out of the decision-making and just showed up with it in the bed of his truck. But aside from things, what he offered most was the gift of his time and skill. He gave his time as if he’d never run out, even if it meant putting his own projects aside.
His name was Charity. It’s one thing to be generous with a person you love, but his charitable spirit led him to give to many people, especially those in need. If he saw a need in his neighborhood, he often filled it without request, simply because it was the right thing to do. He regularly purchased and delivered groceries to struggling families nearby. Even my mother didn’t know about that, only learning about it when me and my siblings discussed seeing him do it—and in some cases, helping with delivery. When one neighbor lost her leg, he even provided her with a handicap-friendly vehicle, and later, a motorized wheelchair. As with everything else, he never asked anything in return.
His name was Independence. He traveled alone. Unless absolutely necessary, he fixed things alone. Aside from his cat, he lived alone, and never expressed loneliness at all. He enjoyed his independence, and he remained that way until the last of his days. If he could not live alone, follow his own passions and pursue his own dreams, he figured his life was over. Though mostly paralyzed, he refused life support, determined to hold himself with dignity and independence to the very end. At the end of all things, it was quiet, peaceful, and just the way he wanted his brilliant flame to flicker out.
His name was Gerald, really, but no one knew him that way.
In loving memory of Uncle Jerry.
June 26, 1939 – November 23, 2017.
You are terribly missed.