Close to Home, Close to the Heart- Finale, Part 3


I put out the call for stories about my uncles who have passed on. My cousin, Uncle Troy’s son, responded. He talked about being outdoors with his dad and how much the time he spent with his dad means to him now. He remembers a turkey hunting trip Uncle Troy took with 4-5 of his buddies when my cousin was in junior high. When they got back, all the tags had been filled. They got their picture on the front page of the little town newspaper. His dad killed almost all the turkeys but a couple but he didn’t take credit for all of them. Another story he related was a beautiful memory. He remembered the times he spent fishing with his dad. Sometimes they would get on the lake just before dawn and sit in the middle of Lake Eucha and silently watch the sun rise together. He treasures all the time he got to spend with his dad both in leisure activities such as fishing as well as working with his dad as an adult. He recalls that when they fished together it was always a competition to see who would catch the first, the biggest, or the most. Those trips were just he and his dad, or he and his dad and Uncle Butch. He said “the ribbing was non stop”. His memories bring tears to my eyes. I sometimes very much miss all those weekends at Granny BATES’ house and long for the close camaraderie with cousins and family. Family is a treasure to be protected at all costs.

He was so tall!

Kenneth BATES

When I put out the call for stories about Uncle Butch, one of my younger cousins responded. When she was little, her family didn’t live close enough to my grandparents to come visit them every weekend like some of the others. She says that once when they were visiting Granny’s house on the hill outside of South West City, Missouri, her parents were carrying her up the ladder to put her in bed. She remembers that she was probably younger than 5 years old and didn’t know who Butch was. She saw him as they were going to bed and he scared her to death. This makes me laugh because to me, he was probably the least scary of all my uncles. He was more like a big kid to me. But I could see how to her, he would have been scary because she was so young and she didn’t know him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to scare her on purpose as a joke. He was kind of a practical joker as I recall him.

My uncle Butch was always my favorite uncle on my mom’s side. I loved all of my uncles so if you asked me why he was my favorite, I couldn’t tell you exactly. In general, it was based on a little girl’s perception of the adults around her. I think I felt in him a certain sadness that wasn’t resolved and I wanted to fix it and make it better. It was a sadness that I always vaguely associated with his combat service in Vietnam. My memories of him include him playing cards with my grandparents, mom, and other aunts and uncles during the huge weekend family visits. Every weekend of my childhood (not even exaggerating) we would visit my mother’s parents on Saturday night. My aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my family would all gather at my grandparents’ house. After my grandparents’ favorite television shows were over the adults would head into the dining room and play cards all night at the dining table. A phrase I frequently remember hearing from my grandpa, Lum BATES, was, “Well, Sumbitch!” That was usually followed by the sound of cards slamming down on the table. It was all in good fun and I remember all those weekends fondly now (although then I would have given a lot to do something else on one of those weekends). There were times I thought Uncle Butch might be sober at Granny’s house and just pretending to be drunk although I really couldn’t say. Most of the times I saw him he was either drunk or very good at pretending to be drunk or well on his way to being drunk. Again, something I associated with his sadness as well as his service in Vietnam. At my Uncle Troy’s funeral I remember having one singular, fleeting moment to tell my Uncle Butch how I felt about him. I’m so grateful I seized that opportunity because three years later Uncle Butch died suddenly and I never had another opportunity before his death to tell him how I felt. I wish I always made those kinds of no-regret decisions.

Mom decorating Uncle Butch’s grave for Memorial Day, 2014.

I’m glad this week that I got to tell you about most of my aunts and uncle who have passed on. I wish I had told all of them how I felt about them when I had the chance. So today this is the moral of the story: Love the ones God gave you. Never forgo an opportunity to tell them how much you love them. To the best of your ability, live your life with no regrets and put love first.

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

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