[caption id="attachment_1601" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Seriously, it doesn't get much cooler than the two of us."][/caption]
I can't think of a better way to kick off National Placencia Month than a blog about my Uncle John (AKA "Unc" or "The J").
My Uncle John is the eldest son of thirteen children and my hunch is he's just as ornery today as he's ever been. Not ornery in a scary mean -guy Archie Bunker kinda way, but ornery in the sense that as recently as a few years ago before Grandma passed away, John would still "tell on" my dad.
"Ma, Eddie was out late last night."
"Mama, Eddie's making faces at me."
"Mama, Eddie hit me."
Grandma would always roll her eyes, look at me, and exclaim "Just like when they were kids! You see what I put up with!"
You always know when John is around, you're going to laugh. He loves to kid around and crack wise. Because John is the eldest, he has an arsenal of stories about all my other aunts and uncles and is more than glad to share them if given the chance (especially if the aunt/uncle in question is present and the story is more than a little embarrassing).
My only regret about Uncle John is that I didn't really get to know him until I was in my mid-20s. As I was growing up, John lived in California, so I really only got to see him every few years when he would fly home to Indiana for a family reunion.
When I was 21 I moved to the Los Angeles area and a couple of years after that, I moved to the middle of the Mojave Desert to the town of Ridgecrest where my dad, brother Ray, Uncle John, and a handful of other family members lived.
While I was in Ridgecrest, I spent my time wisely. And by wisely, I mean I was at John's house all of the time. I don't know how many Fridays my dad, Ray, and I spent over at John's house playing poker until the wee hours of the night. John knows about 346 different ways to play Poker, all of them more fun than the last. My favorite version he taught me was "baseball", mostly because I loved to hear him shout "Oh, looks like Little Hildo wants to play a little baseball!!"
As a side note, I don't know how I got the nickname Little Hildo, but one day John told me that's my new name. I didn't understand, especially since I never heard him call my dad "Hildo." How was I "Little Hildo'?" And just what the heck is a "hildo"? I've never asked John because I'm sort of afraid he'll tell me. Sometimes it's just better to not know.
When we weren't playing Poker (or Hearts. Or Spades. Or The Great Dalmuti), John would cook for us. He's an amazing chef and his late-night quesadillas are the best I've ever had. John's other specialty is his steak. He brags about the fact that he cooks it so juicy and tender, you don't need a knife to eat it. Ray once made the mistake of asking John for a knife and John made like he'd been stabbed in the heart.
After giving Ray a hard time (and after Ray found out a knife was indeed unnecessary) John made a point to remind Ray for the rest of the night that he had asked for a knife.
More than all of this, though, the one thing I love about Uncle John is the fact that you know he loves you. You know it by the way he smiles and laughs, by the way he says "Duuuuuude" when you steal the hand from him at Euchre, by his big hugs he gives, and by the way he makes it a point to tell us he loves us.
Once in a while I'll get a random message from him that says "I love you Little Hildo" or I'll see a comment he leaves on one of my cousin's Facebook walls telling them how much he loves them. It's really super cool.
We love you too, J.