Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Uncle Bobby

My Uncle Bobby was always my favorite uncle. From the time I was quite small, I always loved his sense of humor and his bright, warm smile. Married to my mom's sister Freddie, he was a constant presence in my life from my earliest memories. I remember being a little girl and being fascinated with his hair cut; he had a traditional crew cut back in the 60s, and I loved to run my hand across the top of it and feel its wiry, brushy stiffness. I remember him bringing me pads of paper to write and draw on, and I remember him taking me out to get ice cream when I stayed with he and my aunt once. As I grew, he remained a loving family member whom I could count on to make me laugh at those wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners our family shared.   As a young adult, I moved into a rental house in back of my aunt and uncle's house and became sort of an extra daughter. They'd take me out to eat and generally check up on me when I was living there alone, and once Jeff moved in, they treated him as though he'd always been a member of the family. And though I was grateful for our first home, I was more than a little sad when we moved away from 90 Antioch Pike.

My uncle (pictured on the right in the photo, next to his younger brother) had an awesome sense of humor and generally seemed to be up to something often. Family lore centered on a Jeep he owned in the 40s and 50s; apparently he loved this vehicle more than life itself and drove it everywhere. He also kept a snake in a cigar box under the front seat; not sure how that happened initially, but it was quite well known he would torture my other uncle Clarence with it. Uncle Bobby kept us in stitches during visitation for my grandfather when he passed away; he loved teasing my Aunt Freddie and would say rather outrageous things (in his own understated tone) that would keep us all gasping for breath between the giggles.

My uncle loved being on the water, and he had a speedboat he called the Flip Dizzy for many years. There is a multitude of pictures of he and my father on the lake in their boats, and there are, of course, tales of "initiating" family members into lake activities. There was quite a special bond between my uncle and my dad, and the goings on at the lake only cemented that relationship.  Later on, Uncle Bobby bought first a pontoon and then a houseboat which he was happy to share with one and all. The worst sunburn Jeff ever got was on top of Uncle Bobby's houseboat...awful for Jeff but still part of a generous fun afternoon spent with family.

Today was my uncle's funeral. I spoke to him last a couple of weeks ago, and I knew (despite my denial) that he wasn't doing well. Still, I sort of thought he was indestructible. My aunt Freddie passed away 6 years ago, and he didn't fade into the background quietly. He just kept going and was always glad to hear from me. I'd call on his birthday and he'd answer the phone saying, "It must be my birthday!" which would make me laugh. When I talked to him last, he assured me he wasn't going anywhere and I wanted to believe him.

Did I mention my uncle had polio as a child? Thought I always knew he was "different" physically, it was such a secondary trait to his smiling, happy personality that it wasn't something I really acknowledged. It wasn't until maybe ten years ago that he began using a wheelchair; I do recall my father talking about Bobby's twisted body doing the work of any able-bodied man. Uncle Bobby never let his physical limitations slow him down. Today I learned that his doctors said he'd had the worst case of polio in Nashville and told him he wouldn't live but a couple years past his eleventh birthday. Instead, he lived 72 more years. That should tell volumes about his spirit.

During the funeral, a letter was read that a dear friend had written, and one line hit me especially. "Bob Miller was a difference maker." The reader (his former son-in-law) repeated the line 3 times...and it moved me more deeply every time he read it. Uncle Bobby never let his polio stricken body hold him back from anything; he always had a sunny, upbeat personality. He never even parked in a handicapped spot, though if anyone needed to, it would've been him in the past few years. Our Nashville Sheriff, Daron Hall, spoke of how Uncle Bobby ran the Sheriff's Jail: quietly, calmly, in charge. No disability to hold him on earth can I let anything hold me back?

Uncle Bobby, you made a difference to so many people, and to me, you were the best uncle in the world. In my life I am going to commit to making a difference in your honor. And though I'm sad you are no longer with us, I am sure you are now standing tall and running through the fields of heaven...probably continuing to tell Aunt Freddie she's not afraid of you.  :)  I love you and I am  so lucky to have had you in my life.


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