Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Uncle David

For whatever reasons, I have always been fascinated with turning points in my life and the recognition of them when they actually happen, if at all possible. I would define these moments as being events that changed my life forever afterward in some way.

I can remember one turning point from my youth that involved my uncle David. He is my father's younger brother, and for much of his life, a minister in the Methodist church. As a young pastor in the late 1950's, he championed the integration of his church in Chicago. This act led to death threats, an attempted fire-bombing of the church, and a profile in Ebony magazine. It also resulted in his being reassigned to a post in Alaska, first to Ketchikan, then Fairbanks, and finally Anchorage. Today, in his late 80's, he still lives there with my aunt Aileen, his wife of 60-plus years. He's a cool guy. He even built and lives in a geodesic dome that he fashioned mostly from scrap wood salvaged from construction sites in the Anchorage area. 

Because of his geographic remoteness, we didn't see much of uncle Dave during my growing up years, and his exploits had taken on mythic proportions in my family. This could explain why I was so available to hear what he had to say when he and I were exploring the shore of a lake one summer in Kansas around 1966. I was fascinated with geology, and particularly fossils, and I was prone to picking up rocks wherever I went. I remember there was one large, flat rock that I was trying to turn over, just to see what was on the under side of it. This was nothing special to me - I'd done it countless times. After I finally got this one freed from the brown mud of the lake bank, uncle Dave noted, "You know, Rog, you're the first human being who's ever turned that rock over." This literally rocked my world, and I looked at the bottom of that piece of limestone with a new sense of wonder and awe. 

I have gone on to turn over a lot of rocks since then (literally and metaphorically), and almost every time I do, I remember uncle Dave smiling at me under that blue Kansas summer sky, opening my mind to a bigger world.


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