When I was a kid, I always loved to visit with my Uncle Chucky.
You see, even though Uncle Chucky was my dad's baby brother, he was definitely the coolest of all the uncles. He was one of the first people I knew to have a gigantic boom box in the eighties, and he listened to the kind of music that I liked too which was a major bonus. In fact, when Kool and the Gang would belt out "Celebration", you could usually find Uncle Chucky doing his famous half strut/ half dance move and encouraging the rest of us to join in with him.
In short, Uncle Chucky was an enormous kid . . .an enormous kid with a giant heart.
I remember when my grandfather, Cap, died, I was just shy of my 12th birthday. It was Halloween time, and all of the adults were mourning the loss of their dad. And even though Chucky had just lost his dad, he would have no part of me or my cousin's missing Halloween or my birthday. We pieced together costumes from our cousin's house and we assembled in my grandparents' front living room.
"Everyone ready?" Chucky asked.
We all nodded eagerly, and then Chucky looked pointedly at me.
"Annie, WHAT is that?"
Not knowing what he could be talking about, I answered with a blank stare and a shrug of my shoulders. He walked over to me with purpose and grabbed the plastic grocery bag I was planning to use to collect candy.
"This! What's this? THIS will never do!" Chucky explained, and then he was off. He ran up my grandmother's stairs two at a time, and when he returned he carried pillows from her bed. He stripped those pillows of their cases and handed them out to me and to the other pillow-case-less cousins.
"NOW we are ready!" he declared when he finished, and then he led us through my first experience with sprinting during trick-or-treating.
That night I came home completely out of breath and exhausted, but I had an enviable mound of candy in my pillowcase that was probably almost as tall as I was, and I had a memory of my 12th birthday that is still etched on my heart. . . all because of Chucky.
Of course, Chucky was always up for a good time, and he loved a good game of cards. He especially loved to hold all of his cards until he was just about to go out. And when he did go out on you, he inevitably left you holding a fist full of face cards. It was exasperating. I swear, the man was part "Rainman" in his ability to count cards. And the worst part? He would sit there smiling that sly smile of his while his eyes would dare you to try him again. It was a challenge that I fell for many a time.
One Memorial Day Chucky loaded all of the kids into his car to take us to a parade. Even though we were quite scrunched in the back seat and there was no air conditioning, even though our legs stuck to the leather of his seats, and even though his car over-heated on the highway on the way home, it didn't matter to us. Uncle Chucky spoiled us that day. He cranked the music loud in the car, he bought us every imaginable piece of junk food that the parade vendors hocked, and he took turns putting each of us on his shoulders so that we could see the parade better. It was a great day.
And there were many great days. I will always remember when Chuck sang and danced to Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" during our Mardi Gras family reunion. I will remember his visits to my Florida childhood home and especially his stories about the not one, but two tickets he received on his drive down there. I will remember his hearty laugh that bent him over at the waist when something tickled him, and I will remember the way that he liked his tea, "just so", with milk and sugar. I will always remember Uncle Chuck the eternal kid splashing with my kids in the pool, just like he had splashed me oh so many years ago.
My, Uncle Chucky . . . he was one of kind.
And there is a hole in my heart today as I learned of his death.
But I am going to make myself a cup of his tea,
and crank up the music loudly,
and play rummy with my kids. . .
All in the hopes that Uncle Chucky is out there smiling.
Love to all of my family.~Annie