Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Memory of my Uncle Adolf


It was one of those beautiful days out on Whiskeytown Lake yesterday. I was spending the morning with a couple friends catching Kokanee Salmon when my phone rang. Caller ID revealed it was my dad, so I answered with every intention of harassing him about not being out on the lake with me.
“I have some sad news Erich”.
I immediately thought something had happen to my Uncle Henry who just had the valves replaced in his heart. “Uncle Adolf died. They found him on the floor at his condo”. Apparently Uncle A had died a week ago, resolving the mystery as to why my Dad’s newspapers were never picked up while he was on vacation.
Uncle A died? This wasn’t computing. I just saw him at Peet’s Coffee 2 weeks ago. I called him while passing through the bay area after our trip to CT and NY to get together for a cup. From that moment to now, my mind began to flood with fond memories of an uncle that treated me with love and respect.
I remember the reversible silk jacket he to brought me from Japan as he finished his tour with the Navy. Red on one side and royal blue on the other with a giant eagle embroidered over the whole back. A 5 year old couldn’t have been prouder. A visit to the shoe store where he worked always resulted in a pocket full of balloons or a fancy metal shoe horn. On Saturday mornings he would be out mowing our lawn and I couldn’t eat fast enough to get outside and “help” him with my own plastic mower.
Not long after moving to CA, Uncle A followed and worked at the Alameda Naval Air Station as a avionics technician. Electronics always fascinated me, but working on equipment that belonged in airplanes made it especially impressive. I would stop by his shop on occasion when working on the base for IBM. He always had a strong cup of Navy coffee brewing and welcomed my visits. It was here that I heard him called “Al” by his peers. Al? Who’s Al? This is my Uncle Adolf.
But I soon learned another dimension of my uncle. Christianity was real and consumed his life. He loved talking about Christ. Sure, he had been my Sunday School teacher while attending Melrose Baptist Church. In fact, after one of his lessons, it was at his invitation that I invited Christ into my life. But Christianity wasn’t compartmentalized to church. His peers referred to him as Preacher and they would continually bombard him with theological questions and life issues.
I always felt welcomed by my uncle; at work, church, his house anywhere and anytime. Not many adults in my life were humble enough to ask questions about God to his younger nephew. Not many uncles would invite a 9 year old to drive across the United States with him. I witnessed his love for my aunt as he drew the words “I love you” on the sands of the beach for all to see. I saw the longing in his eyes for his kids to love God as he did. I experienced his patience in teaching me to drive a clutch. I remember my first lesson when he simply stated (with an open cup of hot coffee in his hand) “lesson is over when you spill this coffee onto my lap” and then would break out into one of his infectious smiles.
Uncle Adolf taught me the Morse code, the phonetic alphabet and how to build a house. He taught me about electricity, how to solder wires and record music on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. But what I will miss the most will be the genuine joy he expressed at seeing me or anyone of my family and embracing us with a loving hug.


Surviving brothers Uncle Henry and John (Dad).


Have any memories of your own? I'd love to have you post them as comments...