To most people, November 17th is just another day. To me, it’s the day my life changed forever. I have the date tattooed on my body, to remind me of how fragile life is. My uncle passed away on this date back in 2001, when I was a Freshman in college. This was not just one of my uncles… this was my mother’s brother. This was my hero. When I was a newborn, he was the second person to hold me. Basically, he was the man who stepped up when my teenage father was not in my life. I was as close to this man as I was with my mom, and I was a huge mama’s boy. My mom did not meet my dad until I was already 2, and they married when I was 5. Now that I am a daddy, I understand how important it is to have a positive male figure in a baby’s life. I may not remember everything he did for me as a baby, but I have picture, and I have stories. He filled the void left by a father… and my uncle was only 15 years old.
When my mom got married, and moved out of my grandma’s house, he would randomly show up at midnight or later, and pick me up to come stay with him because he missed me. He loved to tell jokes. I picked that up from him. He had a young heart and mind. I picked that up from him. He never took life too seriously. He always told me not to grow up too fast. When he talked, I listened intently.
When we moved away to the U.S, he came to visit me as often as he could. We would talk on the phone. He would write me letters. When he finished law school, I was there. When he got married, I was there. When he had his children, I was there. I was his biggest fan.
Although his life had changed, he still treated me as his own son. When I was getting bullied in school because everyone was wearing Adidas (three stripes), and I was wearing Eastside shoes (four stripes), he bought me a pair with money he was saving up… just so kids would stop making fun of me for being poor. I appreciated that back then, but more so now. Now that I have children and understand unconditional love. That is what he had for me. He would do anything for me.
On November 15th, 2001, I talked to my uncle on the phone. We talked for an hour and a half. I had just received a letter from him, and inside it he said, “just remember that you will never beat me at basketball!” He had just visited us, and he had whooped my butt. So I made it my goal to beat him at basketball the very next time I saw him. When I stare at that, I smile, because he was completely right.
“If tears could build a stairway,
and memories a lane.
I would walk right up to Heaven
and bring you back again.”