I wrote about Uncle Claude here recently and how he was a major influence in AD’s life. As such, we often talk about him and we often talk about him to Sean.
Oral tradition, the telling of and retelling of family stories, connects us to those who came before us, those who had a hand in shaping us in some way. Their stories are our stories and our stories are our history. It is the through the knowledge of history that we know from whence we came, and to some degree, for better or worse, who we are. (And perhaps it is why I love history so much.)
We tell Sean about how Uncle Claude would quietly go around town doing nice things for others, mowing lawns and fixing things. We tell him how he and Aunt Jean took in AD and his mother and brothers for a time after AD’s father died. We tell him how he served our country and how he was a war hero. We tell these stories so that he might have an understanding of who Uncle Claude was, how he shaped us for the better and how he was, in our eyes, a great man.
But he’s only six. We don’t really know how much of these stories he absorbs and remembers.
But, truth be told, maybe we tell our family stories because we need to tell them moreso than because he needs to hear them.
Be that as it may, late last week Sean and AD were sitting together on the sofa and the evening news was on in the background. A segment came on enumerating all the famous people who had died in 2009 — everyone from Walter Conkrite to Soupy Sales. When it was over, Sean turned to AD and said, “I guess we missed the part where they talked about Uncle Claude.”
I had to laugh, not just at the idea that the national news would mark the passing of our beloved uncle, but also because Uncle Claude died before Sean was born.
But I did pause to ponder what the news would be like if they did more stories on ordinary people doing good things and less stories on famous people doing bad things. Wouldn’t that make the world a nicer place? I think so.
But then again, Uncle Claude would never seek nor accept the spotlight or the applause of human hands. And that’s part of what made him so great. He spent his life seeking another kind of applause, another kind of spotlight, another kind of reward.
I like to think that one day in heaven, on the nightly news, there was this story:
“Today in the greater Tuna metroplex, a man who goes by the name of Uncle Claude went on a goodness spree. After tossing the football with a fatherless boy, he mowed the grass at the church. Later he fixed a broken screen door for a widow lady. There were no eye witnesses. He was last seen driving a 1977 Ranchero. Back to you in the studio, Gabe.”