I am a non-parent. However, I am a pretty awesome uncle.
I have had two of the best uncles a young kid could ever ask for. My Uncle Jack, for instance, was like a rock star to me. He lived an extraordinary life of adventure and spontaneity. Once he had us all on the edge of our seats filling our minds with the ups and downs of his motorcycle trip from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Someone should write a book about this guy. I really looked up to him and he changed my way of thinking and now I really believe that anything is possible and there is a whole world out there just waiting to be explored.
My Uncle Johnny was a railroad engineer for as long as I can remember, and he just recently retired. Railroad retirement is extraordinary, but you earn every dollar. The railroad never closes, so there were countless allnight runs, weekends, holidays, and birthdays when he was hauling the nation’s economy and he did it with pride. One of the best things Uncle Johnny did for me as a teenager was to listen to me and offer sage advice. When I was about to graduate high school, we talked at length about my future. It sounds different than the same conversation that you’ve had with your parents. Uncles have a different point of view.
As an uncle, I have a unique role with the 12 nieces and nephews that are under my watch. I am like the hybrid of a parent and a substitute teacher with a little bit of daredevil mixed in. I like to be able to drift in – stir all the kids up – and leave. Just kidding! That’s not what happens, but they are glad to see me when I come to visit. The kids’ ages are from 8 to 24, so quality time takes on many appearances with each age group.
For the younger ones, I am the Tickle Monster and I am always “IT” when playing Chase. They always get my jokes, too. For the middle-aged ones, I am the risk-taker/adventurer. Mom said not to play with matches? Well, I just happen to have a pocket full of firecrackers. Let’s blow up something! But seriously don’t tell Mom! For the older kids I really try to relate as best I can, listen as much as I can, and offer some of my nuggets of wisdom as often as I can. If I don’t pass these kinds of things along, they will be lost forever.
Some of the other highlights of my tour of being an uncle include attempting to change a diaper, telling awesome jokes, pitching a baseball until dark and pushing young ones on the swing until my arms gave out. Just recently I was there when my Godson, who calls me Uncle Alan, caught his first fish. Actually, I guess what I do is make memories better.
National Aunt and Uncle Day is on July 26, so if you have an awesome Aunt or Uncle in your life, please reach out to them and let them know how awesome they are. And if you are an uncle embrace it, enjoy it, and exploit the heck out of it!
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant.