A Short Ride With My Uncle

It’s been more than two months since I’ve updated this blog and I know that for two reasons:

1) I own a calendar, and

2) I’ve thought about updating in a few times each week but I didn’t because everything I felt in the last post still applies.

So why am I updating this today?  Because I feel sharing something and it’s easier to tell it here than it is to have you all at my house.

A few weeks ago, my Uncle Tony passed away. For those of you unfamiliar with my family, Tony was my great-uncle, the husband of my grandmother’s sister Rita; he was one of the all time good guys in this world and I am lucky to have known him.  There are dozens of stories about Uncle Tony but most of them are not mine to tell; they are better told by his six children.

However, I will share one with you.

Several years ago I flew back home to Long Island from Los Angeles and stopped by my Uncle Tony’s house to see him and my aunt. He asked me to go for a ride with him to pick up a few things. We walked outside to his Lincoln, not a Navigator or one of the new models: it was a Continental with full leather interior and a St. Christopher medal set in the dash. Behind the wheel my uncle looked much younger and stronger, the way I remembered him when I was a kid and I’d beg him and my aunt to let me stay at their house.

He leaned back in his seat and said:

“You know this is the last year they made these with the leather” he told me, “I don’t drive that shit they make now, I like a big car.

I nodded and took it in, feeling as awed by my uncle as I did when I was a kid and the car was a Cadillac or a Crown Vic.

We’re still driving and he’s talking about the car.

So I had them rebuild the engine so I could have the full V-8 instead of the 6 and I take it home and it’s burning oil…so I call the guy and he don’t want to hear it…so I drive over there and say DO I HAVE TO DRIVE THIS THROUGH THE BUILDING OR YOU WANNA DO THIS THE EASY WAY? They understood then. It’s about respect you know; don’t let nobody take advantage of you.

Finally he asks me how I like Los Angeles and I tell him it’s pretty nice.

Pretty nice is right. I was in San Diego for two years in the navy, we used to head up there on leave sometimes we’d go to Mexico too cause it was cheaper. You like it there huh?

-Yeah, I’m gonna stay for a while.

As long as you’re happy. Remember, you get in any trouble you call me…you know what I mean?

-Yeah I know.

Good…I know some people out there if you need anything.

I didn’t doubt for a second that he meant it. If I needed him, he’d be there. My uncle took care of the people he cared about and I was lucky to be one of those people. We picked up what we needed and headed back home.

I’ve thought about that car ride a lot over the years, partly because of what he said but mostly because of what he didn’t say. While my uncle talked about demanding respect that day, he had spent his whole life earning it through his actions. I respected and admired Uncle Tony not because he could help me, but simply because he was willing to.

In the years that passed I never needed to ask my uncle for a hand but there came a day when I needed his help and he didn’t let me down. Last year when my father passed away Uncle Tony was there. He was sick by then but he was there along with the rest of my family to pay their respects to my father.

He asked me if there was anything I needed, but just seeing him was enough to make it a little easier.

I learned of my uncle’s passing while walking home from dinner with my wife in Los Angeles and a few hours later I was on a plane heading home. My uncle, my aunt and their children stood at my side when my father passed away. Returning home to say goodbye was the least I could do.

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16 Comments

Filed under Family

16 responses to “A Short Ride With My Uncle

  1. You, Sir, are one of the good ones.

  2. Kerry

    Thank you for telling that story. It is always nice to know you have someone to call … it is also so sweet to ride in a massive old American car… with leather. It has been a while but I know that hum of confidence that comes from riding in one especially with an icon.

  3. mike

    nice job willie uncle barry always had cool cars. Remember the limo, man we thought he was rich.

  4. Everyone needs — or at least wants, an Uncle Tony in their lives. You were so very fortunate.

    I know it’s hard to have sorrow visited upon sorrow, but man, what a great family and relationships you had the privilege of building upon over the years…

    Hang in there, Bro…

  5. For some reason the St. Christopher medal affixed on the dash got me.

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. Good family is so hard to come by and so hard to say good bye to as well.

    • The medal always stuck out in my mine too. If you look at the comment below you’ll see that I left out one other detail that his daughter filled in for me. My uncle lived a terrific life and I was lucky to have known him.

  6. Judy (Aka ice tea lady)

    Sam,

    Don’t mean to sound like your Dad however I think you forgot to mention the giant sized Italian horn hanging from the rear view mirror. Great story & thanks for being you! Oh yea by the way I don’t know if you knew this but my dad loved you as much as your dad loved me! Ya I know as you thought about it you relized I did have a little more of and edge but what the hell. Just remember you are loved!!!!!!

  7. Great story, Will. Love those East Coast folks. Mine are in Boston; Uncle Al, Uncle Angelo, etc.

    Sorry for your loss but it sounds like you’ve got some awesome memories to hang on to.

  8. Keith Konior

    My father is ill, and it won’t be long before I lose him. You’re chronicles of how you are dealing with the grief of such a thing have and do mean a great deal to me. I can only hope to face it with the openness and bravery that you did. You and your Missus are just one-in-a-trillion. Whatever good stuff comes y’alls way is just because you both deserve it.

    P.S. I still hate your Mets. And I still love Billy Joel.

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