The Uncle Series: Uncle Bud
I have been very blessed to be related to some wonderful men. No wonder I can’t find a good man to marry. I’m related to them all. I was given pause just recently when I signed up for yet another website. I answered the usual questions of name, address, telephone number, (do they ever call?) password and secret question. My secret question: who is my favorite uncle? Well I had to think about that a minute. Then I quickly typed in Uncle Earl. Uncle Earl is my Aunt Mary’s husband. Aunt Mary is my daddy’s sister – his oldest sibling. Uncle Earl is my only uncle "by marriage" on my dad’s side of the family. No disrespect to any other uncles by blood or by marriage on my mother's side of the family.
Now Uncle Earl only just recently inherited the favorite uncle status – sorry Uncle Earl. If the favorite uncle question had been asked say two years ago, the answer would have been a toss up between Uncle Earl and Uncle Bud. Uncle Bud is my mother’s brother- her penultimate sibling – the knee baby. (Uncle Bud’s being the knee baby is up for debate. Aunt Bernice could or could not be the knee baby because Grandpapa was a rolling stone! There is a child younger than me – my Aint Jackie.) My mother had an older brother, Russell Lee who was killed before I was born so I never knew him. I didn’t meet Uncle Bud until I was about ten years old. Before meeting him, I thought he was some type of God. My mama was so crazy about him – her baby brother.
Uncle Bud was in the US Army and stationed in Germany for several years. I’d seen several pictures of him before he returned to the states. Tall, slim and handsome – movie-star good looks. Would have given Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte a run for their money had he been an actor instead of a soldier. He and my mama looked alike. He came back home to the states in 1974. Showed up in the middle of the night one night and scared the crap out of us. We had no warning that he was coming. He was just showed up one night and my mama went crazy. She was so happy to see him. He lived with us for a while – sleeping in my room. I was actually honored to give up my room for the great and wonderful Bud or Louis Edward which is his given Christian name. He was just mad cool and so handsome.
He had done his duty in the army and was now going to be a civilian. He began working and bought a black Trans Am with a gold eagle imprint spread across the hood of the car. That was the baddest car. The baddest car in the neighborhood. The baddest car in town and it was parked in my drive way. Parked right next to my daddy’s ten year old Pontiac Bonneville. The oldest and most embarrassing car in town.
Now Uncle Bud was still young, single and dating when he lived with us. He couldn’t have been older than in his mid-thirties then. He dated some of the prettiest women I think I’ve ever seen. Tall, usually brown –skinned, shapely, fashionably dressed young sisters. I was mesmerized. Every Saturday night, he’d come by the house and he’d have a different beautiful women on his arm. (I’d get to sleep in my room on Saturday nights.) My handsome uncle – the player. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be the “pretty” girlfriend to some handsome man like my Uncle Bud.
Uncle Bud did eventually marry. He married Anne. A very sweet woman. The first Christmas they were together Anne brought gifts for everyone in the family. All my aunts and cousins each got gifts. She bought me my first grown-up perfume gift set. The set contained perfume, lotion and body powder and I was in heaven. I was maybe twelve then. She didn’t buy me a kiddie gift. She didn’t think of me as a little girl but a young woman. I thought Anne was pretty cool.
None of Uncle Bud’s other girlfriends had ever given any us gifts. On second thought none of them ever lasted long enough to be around at Christmas time let alone give us gifts. Anne tried to fit into the family. She’d have a little too much to drink along with everyone else. She’d sit around with the family and crack jokes. Offer to help out my mama or one of my aunt’s in the kitchen. Anne soon began to feel like a part of the family. But there was just one thing. Anne was White. OMG! My handsome uncle had married a White woman. A short, chubby, White woman with a big head, long brown hair, too much eye make-up and big breastesses. Well I’ll just say that not everyone in the family welcomed Anne with open arms. There have been some interesting family gatherings that would be best left unwritten about.
To be honest, I don’t think any of us were really all that surprised that Uncle Bud married a White woman. While in Germany he occasionally sent us pictures of himself with his latest love interest. I remember one picture he’d sent of himself with a very buxom, dark-haired White beauty named Anna. He wrote to us about Anna and seemed quite smitten with her. We all expected Anna to show up with him whenever he did return to the states.
Everyone questioned my uncle’s apparent preference for White women when he chose to have a serious relationship. We analyzed the situation and theorized that Uncle Bud preferred White women because he lost his mama - my mama’s mama, and my grandma - at a young age. My grandma died when my mama was nine and Uncle Bud would have been about four or five years old. My grandma was very light complexioned with long, thick, black hair and she was very well endowed, I’m told. We surmise that Uncle Bud’s first female love attachment in his mind was his mother who, in his mind, was ‘white’ with long hair and big breastesses.
Anne was unable to have children so she and Uncle Bud adopted a little baby girl – from Vietnam. Jena Marie. Okay. The family grapevine was abuzz. The rainbow family – Black father, White mother and Asian daughter. Jena grew up and married Gerardo, a Guatemalan guy. Jena and Jerry, as he’s called, have two boys - Louis G (Luigi) and Sammy. What a rainbow of a family, huh? We haven’t had a family reunion in some time, but I imagine if they attended it would look like a day at the United Nations.
Uncle Bud died almost two years ago this December after being sick for many years. Aunt Bernice, my mama’s youngest sister, helped Anne take care of Uncle Bud. He needed a kidney transplant. He’d stopped taking his blood pressure medication and his kidneys eventually began to fail. He took dialysis once a week for several hours for the rest of his life. He had a couple of strokes. Couldn’t drive. He’d always loved his cars and not being able to drive probably killed him quicker than any physical ailment. I sent Uncle Bud a Christmas card one year offering him one of my kidneys. The card went to the wrong address and was returned. I still have the card.
I was dead serious about donating a kidney to him. Yeah, I would have given my uncle a kidney! That was my handsome, cool uncle. He could have anything of mine he wanted. I am an organ donor. When I die, what can I do with these organs? I say everyone should hit up http://www.organdonor.gov/index.html and let somebody have that heart, those eyes, that liver, those lungs, etc. who can use them. You can’t do anything with them while you laid out in a casket waiting to go on to your glory.
I didn’t get up to Virginia to see Uncle Bud the entire time he was sick. Car trouble, no money, had to work – one thing or another.
I last spoke with Uncle Bud the morning of my daddy’s death. I’d gotten up an hour earlier that day to dress and take the kids to school. I was going to go by the nursing home that morning to see daddy. I’d pop in at different times during the day thinking I was keeping the staff on their toes. I also wanted to catch the lady who worked with hospice who was taking care of daddy. I’d never met her. No matter how early I’d arrive at the nursing home, she’d already be gone.
As I’m on my way out to door on the way to the nursing home, the telephone rings and it’s Uncle Bud and Aunt Bernice both. I hadn’t talked to Uncle Bud in some time so I didn’t want to cut him off. We all end up talking for an hour. Then I had to go to work. No time to stop at the nursing home. At 10:00 that morning the hospice woman, Nisha, calls. She tells me that daddy is gone. I didn’t even get to say good-bye.
So Uncle Bud passed away on the 7th of December of 2007. I attempted to attend Uncle Bud’s funeral which was held in Fort Myer, Virginia. He was buried at Arlington Cemetery and I missed the whole thing. Always a day late and a dollar short. I missed it all. My mama had gone up the day before the funeral with her cousin Ruth who we call Cat. Cat is so good to mama. Just like a sister to her. If I had a sister, i'd want to be as close to her and mama and Cat are. I wish mama and her older sister, Aunt Lit, were much closer. I don't think either of them realize how special it is to have a sister. I'm an only child. No brothers. No sisters. Whenever I become friends with someone, I become very attached to them, I think, because I'm an only child. I'm always accused of having a lesbian relationship with my girlfriends because we become so close. But for anyone who knows me well and I mean KNOW in the Biblical sense, they know that I am not a lesbian. But I digress.
While driving around in Arlington Cemetery trying to catch up to the family processional, I stopped at one point to call my family to inquire as to their whereabouts within the cemetery. I was so frustrated and so frazzled. I pulled over and dialed the cell number and talked to one of my cousins trying to get directions.
“Where are you?” Dean asked. I looked up and saw the Kennedy gravesite. Very nonchalantly I tell her that I’m was right in front of Kennedy gravesite. Being in front of the Kennedy gravesite meant absolutely nothing to me at that moment because I was trying to get up with my family for my uncle’s burial. I wasn’t in awe. I wasn’t impressed. I wasn’t excited. I was just in front of the Kennedy gravesite. I may as well have said I was in front of the Wal-Mart.
The kids and I probably could have spent the whole morning touring Arlington Cemetery while waiting for the fam to come over from the funeral. But no! I was all up in DC on Howard’s campus and GW’s campus. My friend Marie met us downtown and we spent some time together. Then I just drove around the city reminiscing and waxing nostalgic. The kid’s weren’t impressed at all because they both have no love for DC. How can anyone not love DC? Are these really my kids?
I had already missed the viewing of the body and the funeral. I wasn’t going to miss my uncles’ burial at Arlington – but I did. But I also missed the Kennedy gravesite, for all intents and purposes. I didn’t even point it out to my children. It took me about two weeks afterwards to realize –fool, you were right next to the Kennedy gravesite and you didn’t even point it out to your kids.
Fortunately my kids are a bit more astute than I give them credit for and did actually seeing and acknowledging the grave-site for themselves. I mean we were right there. I still kick myself whenever I think about it. I call that a ‘Forrest Gump’ moment and I’ve had many ‘Forrest Gump’ moments throughout my lifetime. You know those moments when you can just reach out and touch greatness but the magnitude and importance of the moment escapes you.
Well I didn’t attend any of Uncle Bud’s final ceremonies. Missed each and every one of them. Missed all my cousins who live in the area - many of whom I haven't seen in years. Pam, Cymp and Pop were there. My sister cousin Valarie was there. Melanie, whose a blacker sheep in the family than me. Larry and Zip were there. Missed Anne and the rainbow coalition. My cousin, Sabrina who lives in Alexandria and is my cousin on my dad's side even attended the funeral. She'd kept in contact with my mother during her travels back and forth from Virginia to visit Uncle Bud while he was sick. In the south, we rarely make distinctions between paternal and maternal family. They are just family.
My mom's oldest sister, Lillian (we call her Lit and I don't know why) was originally supposed to ride with me to Virginia for the funeral. But my cousin, Monty, her son took her instead. I know she's glad she went with Monty. She would have missed her brother's funeral if she had ridden with me.
But I got a chance to travel to DC, the city that I have such a love/hate relationship with. I miss my uncle greatly and bemoan his death but I somehow believe that Uncle Bud simply wanted me to have the opportunity to make a trip a DC. That trip did my soul good. I came back to North Carolina rejuvenated from the smell, sights and sounds of our nation’s Capital - my second home.
Thank you Uncle Bud! Not for dying, but for giving me another “lemons to lemonade” moment in my life.
Rest In Peace my beautiful, handsome, cool uncle.
EPILOGUE - Today is March 28, 2012, my favorite Uncle's birthday and five years after the death of Uncle Bud. I still have not visited his grave at Arlington Cemetery. Life has somehow still not afforded me the opportunity to visit my uncle's grave and say one last good-bye.
While adding the picture of the Kennedy grave-site to this hub, I came across the poem inscribed on the grave-site that contains one of my favorite quotes: Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country.
We should all take the opportunity to ask ourselves: what can I do for my country? If you can't think of anything that you can do, please, simply get registered with your local board of elections and vote in your local, state and federal elections. That's the least any of us can do.