Most of us are privileged at some point in our life to know a special person. These are the people who always make you smile when you think of them; who are always there when you need them; who always seem to know the right thing to say when something needs to be said. You know what I mean. I have been blessed to know several people like that, but the one that is on my mind today is my Uncle Al.
Uncle Al was my godfather. He always made me laugh. He had an upbeat clipped style to his speech that made me want to listen to what he said, and when he fixed his gaze on me, I suddenly couldn't move. If you were a kid, he was one of those guys I don't think you could put anything over. He and my Aunt Julia raised 13 beautiful children. And you know how some families are where you feel your cousins are more like your brothers and sisters than they are cousins even though you may not see them very often. That's the way I felt about Uncle Al's family. When we visited together we kids ran through the fields picking every wild berry that could be found, threw goat turds at each other in the farm yard, and watched our mothers cook dinner for everybody in the farm house kitchen using two big pressure canner cookers. And when Uncle Al told the tribe to sit down at the table and say Grace, you did it.
Today was Uncle Al's funeral mass. The parish priest who gave the homily knew Uncle Al and his family well over the past nearly 40 years; he, too, was saying farewell to a good friend. As I looked at my cousins with their children and grandchildren sitting in the pews, I couldn't help but think how rich my Uncle Al was (and Aunt Julia is). How rich a community is Tomahawk, Wisconsin because of their presence. And how rich I am for having had such a wonderful man as my godfather.
So long, Uncle Al. Fare you well!