Uncle Herman's birthday is tomorrow. He will be 90. Uncle Herman and Aunt Anna are two of the best people I know. They've never had a TV. They live in a small house with a stone fireplace that Uncle Herman built himself. Wood is their only source of heat. Aunt Anna cans the produce that they grow in their own garden. Aunt Anna quilts. When you call Uncle Herman in the middle of the day, it's not a sure bet that you'll get him...he's often out on his tractor. Although he uses a cane, Uncle Herman can wheel that tractor around like nobody's business. He built an outside wood fired brick oven on his brother Harold's farm. It can hold 25 loaves of bread. This is where the family reunions are held each summer, and Uncle Herman patiently teaches anyone willing to learn how to heat and bake in it. He tells you that he won't be around forever, but he believes in Jesus, and the prospect of dying doesn't faze him at all.
Uncle Herman is a very religious person, but even still, at 90, you get a glimpse of the wild man he was. He came courting Anna on a motorcycle, and he flew his own plane. He crashed his last one, and still laughs when he tells you that story. Anna won't let him fly any more, but he has the big old wooden prop in the barn even still. He's quick to say that he loves you. He has a PT cruiser. Tim found it for him, called him, and after waffling about the price, Uncle Herman bought the car of his dreams, a very rare demonstration of self indulgence.
Want to know what I love best about Uncle Herman? When he began to have trouble walking, he matter of factly went out and tied a loose knot in a sassafras sapling. Later, when walking had become even more difficult, Uncle Herman went out and cut the three year sapling down. The knot that he tied was perfect for his hand grip. He harvested his cane. You don't hear him bitch and moan. He takes life as it comes. This winter, he took a bad fall. He broke his pelvis. Uncle Herman had to go to a nursing home. They made him wear Depends. It must have been a huge indignity for a man in full possession of his faculties. I know that he missed Anna's cooking. I know that he was lonely. But he patiently waited while he mended, not one complaint passing his lips, and when they finally let him up to walk, he took off like a rocket.
He didn't stop walking until they sent him home.
The last time we were at their house, I watched Tim work at his uncle's side.
Uncle Herman's fingers are stiff. Some car repairs are beyond him.
They chuckle and talk.
I realize that the two of them are a lot alike.
I get a glimpse of what Tim will be.
And, in my soul, I'm thank God that I am Mrs. Tim.