Picking favorites

Parents, it’s rumored, must be careful not to pick favorites. Nephews, on the other hand, are fully entitled to choosing their favorite uncles and aunts. Well… whether it’s OK or not, I did.

I remember as a young kid when we’d load up in the car with my grandparents to go visit my great grandparents for the weekend. That trip frequently felt like a visit to a foreign land. Their house had been built in the late 1800’s and had been later outfitted with electricity. Heat came from two oil stoves – one in the living room, one in the kitchen. There was water in the one bathroom and the kitchen.

But, all that was worth it. Invariably, at some point during the weekend, we’d venture over to see Uncle Pinky and Aunt Phoebe. Their house was magic. They had exotic foods like English muffins and orange juice mixed with Sundrop. Sometimes if there were lots of relatives visiting, I’d sleep in the living room as the clock ticked the time away. Magic, I tell you!

We saw more of Pinky and Phoebe than many of our other relatives since cousin Alex went to college at Western Carolina University, just down the road from us. I remember as a kid one weekend when Uncle Pinky earned Coolest Person Ever™ status when he and my cousin Andy flew in to Cullowhee for a visit in Andy’s plane. I didn’t get to go for a ride because the weather was pretty iffy. Darnit.

My Uncle Pinky introduced me to “real” computers — IBM clones! He helped talk my grandmother into buying me my first real computer and a printer to go with it. I remember visiting them all the way up through college and beyond and he would always show me some new computer or printer or monitor or deal in Computer Shopper.

I remember in college that Amanda and I stopped at their house on the way to or from home with our cats, Jennyfur and Cayenne. The cats also thought their house was magic and would make near endless circuits from living room through kitchen then porch and back to the living room. During cooler times of the year, the porch door might be closed and one or the other of the cats would stand patiently at the door going one direction or the other waiting for passage.

My Aunt Phoebe has always displayed the capacity to be supportive of just nearly anything. Able, while clearly seeing that Amanda was insane for considering a career in veterinary medicine, to still be supportive. My Uncle Pinky, in contrast, was not one to mince words. He has always been the voice in the back of my head to point out the pitfalls of folly.

Amanda and I last visited them in June of 2005 while en route to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As I hoped, my Uncle Pinky poked a bit of fun at my toy car, but admired the engineering. My Aunt Phoebe just thought it was “cute.”

I learned yesterday that my Uncle Pinky passed away. I had some warning it was coming, but I can’t say that made it easier to hear. It’s going to be a little lonelier without a favorite uncle out there.

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