I have no idea why I keep thinking about my Uncle John this week, but he keeps popping into my head. His birthday is in December, so I know that’s not the reason. In fact, his birthday is actually December 24th, so you know that he gets jipped out of all of the birthday shenanigans.
It’s possible that it’s due to the fact that an uncle on the other side of my family has an impending medical test coming up, and I tend to subconsciously get my families mixed up in my head (as is evidenced by the fact that I once had a nightmare that one cousin was in a fatal accident the same night that a cousin on the other side of my family actually had a near-death experience).
No matter the reason, I was totally uninspired to write this week and was downright depressed. The thoughts that just kept coming to my mind were stories of adventures that I had with my Uncle John when I was little. My uncle is alive and in good health (well, relatively, you’ll see), so there seems to be no particular reason that these thoughts are cropping up now. But here we are!
My Uncle John is an objectively interesting subject to write about. Throughout my lifetime, he has had several accidents, few of which are ordinary and many of which are downright bizarre. His most recent injury happened in 2020 when he fell out of a tree while hunting and broke his neck.
Yes, you read that correctly. He broke his neck. That thing that your mom was always saying would happen to you for being reckless on the playground happened to him. Of course, my Aunt Renee (my dad’s sister and my Uncle John’s wife) was beside herself when she found out and rushed to the hospital, but I almost think that she must’ve thought to herself, “here we go again!” My Uncle John is fine now. He walks without aid. Only some limited mobility in his neck and back and a scar on the top of his head show that anything happened to him. This lucky man broke his neck and is essentially carrying on post recovery (which was a challenging time, don’t get me wrong) like nothing happened at all. Now, what was something entirely traumatic has become a family joke — he is constantly reminding us that he broke his neck and can’t do anything for himself (although he really can).
A few years before this accident, he fell out of a tree and broke his back (this is where I should mention that he owns a tree cutting service). He healed fully. When I was little, he got into a terrible motorcycle accident. One time, he cut his arm with a chainsaw. Another time, he swallowed a bee that had flown into his soda can.
He swallowed a bee.
This is the reason that we never drink out of cans while outside anymore — we always transfer our drinks to a cup first so that we can clearly see any insects that choose to fly into them. My aunt called this morning to make sure that I mention that my uncle is highly allergic to bees, but never keeps his epipens in a location that is easily accessible. Because why would you keep medication readily available if you’re accident prone and have terrible allergies, amirite?
Although he married into the family, my Uncle John has been around my entire life, having married my aunt when I was almost a year old. The majority of my family lives within 30 minutes of my house. My parents actually met in grade school and went to the same school district. Their parents have been living only 15 minutes away from each other for forever. Very few members of my family have moved away, so I was at my grandparents’, aunts’, and uncles’ houses pretty frequently when I was younger.
When I was little, my Uncle John and I were buds. There are several pictures of us floating around from when I was a baby, in one of which I was asleep while lying on his chest (as you can see, I found it!). Once, he let my ride on his shoulders and accidentally bumped my head on a doorway. Thank goodness he didn’t break my neck.
When we weren’t snoozing, we were on other random adventures. The trucking company that my family owns was right behind my Gommy and Pop pop’s house. We used to sneak over there and ride their golf carts around the campus. One time after my younger cousin (his oldest child) was born, he took us back to the company campus with a tube and we went tubing down a giant hill covered in snow. We took turns stepping back further and further from the tube perched at the top of the hill to run and jump on the tube and slide down. One time, I went back so far that when I ran and jumped on the tube, I bounced off, knocking the wind out of me and necessitating that we return to Gommy’s house immediately.
One time, a cat gave birth to kittens under my Gommy and Pop pop’s shed. A few of the kittens stayed nearby, one of which we named Oreo for its black-and-white coloring. We would watch the cat from the window. My Uncle John unfortunately found Oreo one day in the road and gave Oreo a nice burial.
Another time, my Uncle John and I spent the afternoon fishing in the koi pond behind his and my aunt’s house. I also remember a time where we were driving down the highway and we pulled off onto the median because my uncle saw a decoy duck and just had to go back and get it.
When I was in the 5th grade, my entire family was going to see a show, but if I went as early as my parents were going, I would miss our first basketball game of the season. Instead of missing it, my Uncle John waited and took me to the show after my basketball game was done.
Fun fact: after all of that, the coach actually totally forgot I was there and didn’t put me in the game anyway. Ironic, right?
While we don’t see each other too much anymore, I remember all of the memories that I share with my Uncle John fondly, and I wish him many more fun adventures. Adventures that ideally don’t, you know, break his neck…