In October of 1999 my parents took a two week vacation to Hawaii. During their vacation I spent a few days with my cousins Joe (although he’ll always be Joey to me) and Kelly, my Aunt Terry and my Uncle Mike. One night Joey and I were bored, and Uncle Mike took us out to see “For Love of the Game,” a baseball movie that has become one of my all-time favorites.
This past year my Uncle Mike suffered from myelodysplastic syndromes, commonly known as MDS – a form of leukemia. Sadly this past Sunday evening, my Uncle Mike passed away.
What I’ll always remember about my Uncle Mike was how caring he was; how willing he always was to make others around him happy. As kids, every time Joey and I would be in the backyard of my grandpa’s house playing baseball, wiffle ball, or tossing the football back-and-forth, my Uncle Mike would always come and join us. We used to have to get down on our hands and knees and beg the other adults to come and pitch the wiffle ball to us, or pass the football.
With Uncle Mike it was never like that. We never had to beg him. When we were younger, he would always take time and hang out with us, and that’s what made him such a special person.
In the summer before I started fourth grade, my Aunt Terry and Uncle Mike invited me on vacation, to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. Joey and I had a blast, but the highlight of the trip came on the first night. We all went out to dinner to (if memory serves me correctly) TGI Friday’s. On the way, we passed a mini-golf course, and over dinner we thought it might be a cool idea to go mini-golfing after we ate.
By the time dinner was over, the golf course was closed. But Uncle Mike came up with a plan.
“I thought I saw a place across the street from the hotel called Caps City,” he said to us. “Maybe they have baseball caps there; maybe it’s got an arcade and batting cages or something.”
Thinking it couldn’t hurt, we took a ride there. But little did we know what Caps City really was.
“Aw man!” we heard Uncle Mike exclaim. “This isn’t an arcade, it’s a truck place!”
As it was, Caps City didn’t mean baseball caps, batting cages, or arcades. Just caps for pickup trucks.
For as long as I live, I will never forget that story – and it just proves what a great person my Uncle Mike was. He tried so hard to think of something fun for my cousin and I to do, and although it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, it was still fun.
I last saw Uncle Mike a couple of months ago. He asked me how I was doing and how work was going, to which I responded, “Fine” and “It’s going well.” It was difficult to see such a wonderful person and someone that I love so sick. But my uncle had a huge heart, and he used it to fight his illness for as long as he could.
Uncle Mike, I wish you peace. You will never be forgotten. Now that I am an uncle to my nephew Ryan, I can only hope I live up to what a fun-loving and caring uncle you were. You’ve set the bar pretty high!
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where o’ death, are your plagues? Where, o’ grave, is your destruction?” – Hosea 13:14