While at his grandmother’s getting babysat, #8 imparted his wisdom to his grandmother. He held up her phone to show the photo she affixed to the backside. Pointing to one of his uncles, he said, “You don’t have him anymore.”
To be clear, the uncle he referred to is still quite alive. He joined the Army and is away at training. But to a little boy, distance is the equivalent to the lack of possession.
His grandmother leaned over him chuckling. Her own experience with nine children led her to understand him with the clarity of a composer reading a symphony. “No, he’s not here anymore is he?”
#8 shook his head. He stared at the picture like an old friend.
“Do you remember him very much?”
He nodded, a wide tooth grin breaking his face like a river through a desert. “Yeah,” he laughed, squinting up at her. “He played.”
And that much is as true as gospel. Before my brother enlisted, he was one of the ringleaders to start games with our children. Whether they were battling out a spirited game of “Bang-Bang-You’re-Dead,” or skulking outside playing “Hide-N-Seek,” the games were always led by their uncles. And before they started to go off for their own careers, all four uncles were engaged in the games outside.
Now that one uncle had joined the Army, another in the Navy, and the third working full time, our children’s game leaders are greatly diminished. However, that does not mean they forget them. Though #8 was only three when his uncle enlisted in the Army, he knew his uncle.
He played with him.