My Uncle James was a simple man. He worked hard through the week as a machinist and entertained the ladies on the weekends. Many of those weekends during my childhood, he always made sure to make time for his favorite girl, me. Even on gloomy days the sun managed to shine for me when ever we spent time together. My Uncle loved to take me to Alameda Beach (featured above). We had lots of fun together and I enjoyed every moment I spent with him growing up. By the time I was eight and moved to Sacramento, he’d visit nearly every weekend. Sometimes it was movie nights when my mom and younger brother would join in watching the newest release of the Star Wars saga. Uncle James would try to buy all my girl scout cookies thinking he was helping me out, but he and momma would bicker when she’d tell him I’m not going to learn anything if he doesn’t let me sell the cookies. I’d sit in the cornner giggling as I watched them and snacked on the cookies he purchased without her knowing. He loved taking me shopping and had a way of always making me feel like a princess. The best times were when he’d visit unexpected and greet me with not only a big hug as he lifted me up in the air, but he’d also present me with a bouquet of roses and a crisp new fifty dollar bill tucked in between the petals. Still the best part of these visits aound the time I turned 10 years old was when he’d hop out his BMW with his roller skates tied together hanging off his shoulders along with his boom box. Instantly I knew what was about to go down. Uncle James and I would spend the day roller skating through K street mall downtown with the music blaring and us doing tricks and dancing down the strip of the outside mall. Back then there was no cars or public transit access just open space for us to roam free.
By the time I turned 14, I was fed up with momma’s abuse and ran away, straight to my uncle. I’d hustled up on a greyhound ticket and as expected, he welcomed me with open arms. My uncle, still hard at work full time didn’t want to leave me alone so he appointed the neighbor who lived across the street from him and my grandfather who had become like a son to my uncle to keep an eye on me. This was the very first time I’d ever seen my uncle so serious and express any form of anger. He warned (who I have only ever referred to as my bodyguard) that he better not touch me or try anything with me. He was loyal to my uncle and never did. On my uncle’s death bed three years ago, his last words to me were him asking for the umpteenth hundred time if I ever had sex with said bodyguard. I promised him, that even as adults aside from a hug, the only time he ever touched me was to push me out the way of gun fire or shield me from any other danger. To this very day even after my uncle’s death, out of the love and respect we both have for him, sex was never an option only a lifelong friendship. During that period of time living with my uncle, there were times he’d throw me on the back of his motorcycle for a long drive, eventually teaching me how to drive it. Other evenings he prepared a nice dinner for us. Uncle James set the table with flowers and pulled my chair out for me and we’d talk, about most everything. He would warn me about how some men take advantage of girls. He made sure that I always new my worth and would always tell me how beautiful I am and to not let anyone tell me I can’t do something. He was firm in telling me that if a man wasn’t treating me like a queen, he didn’t deserve my time which was interesting because I had noticed, although he never seem to be with the same girl for long, he still treated them very well and was respectful to women in general. There were so many instances over the years when I desperately wanted to tell him about what my stepfather had been doing to me, but I was afraid for many reasons. Mostly due to fear of my mom’s threats that if I told him he was sure to kill my stepfather without hesitation. I also knew for sure that he would and I couldn’t bare my little brothers loosing their dad.
By the time I gave birth to my first child, I’d once again made my way back to my uncles and it was the bodyguard who drove me to the hospital while I was in labor. Unfortunately our bond was no longer the same. Perhaps he was disappointed with me becoming pregnant or because he was now struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction. Not long after having my daughter Uncle James moved to another state where we had other family residing and I learned he actually had a daughter of his own who was a few years younger than me. I began to wonder if that’s why he spoiled me, due to missing out with his own daughter. I never questioned my uncle’s love for me, it was always obvious. I could see it in his eyes when ever he looked at me or we talked. He was the one who always supported me in ever venture and cheered me on. It was his face I’d see in the stands when I was in the outfield catching fly balls, never my moms. I recently found his daughter and connected with her. God is good, because I found her name in an old obituary of another family member and through Facebook we were suddenly united. She had no photos of her dad, so thankfully I was able to share what I have with her. She enjoys the stories I tell about her dad, my favorite uncle. I love and miss him so much and now when I look in her eyes, they resemble so much it’s as if I’m looking into his again. With all those who have come in and out my life trying to tear me down, it is because of my time with my Uncle James that I know my worth. His love and support helped me to stand tall and walk with confidence in everything I do.