There’s this book called “Dorie: The Girl Nobody Loved” and I can totally relate only my title might be “Faith: The Girl Parents Don’t Love.” I have jokingly said for years that my childhood is that period between birth and having my first child that I’d really like to forget. Most of it I thought I had forgotten actually, but recently some repressed memories were brought to the forefront of my mind and confirmed by a few people who have known me since pretty much ever. As I’ve pondered and prayed and healed I’ve come to the realization that the people who should have loved me never did and I’m not convinced even now, after nearly 40 years they do presently.
Despite the failures of my Earthly parents though, I’ve learned who I am as a daughter of God and He loves me beyond words. Because of His great love for me, he has more than made up for the lack in my life and I’ve been able to overcome some really wretched experiences as a result. Sometimes all it takes is just one. One person, one thought, one moment, one smile, one hug…just one.
While I’ve been blessed by more than just one person or experience in my life, I’m not sure I’ve ever taken the time to write how one man’s efforts during sporadic visits to his home-made a huge difference in my life as a child and now an adult. His name was Ike and he was one of the first people in my life that I KNEW loved me. I’m honestly can’t remember him ever telling me he did but he behaved in such a way that leaves me 150% certain of the fact that he did. Now, some 25+ years since his passing knowing he loved me is likely one of the things that got me through some of the dark days I’ve seen, even if I wasn’t conscious of this fact at the time.
Uncle Ike was my Great Uncle and a great uncle both. When I was a child he lived in Medford, Oregon and though I didn’t see him too many times before his death, I remember him as vividly as I do fondly. He used to work on the Alaska pipeline and I’m thinking I came along after he had long since retired. On the floor of his home there was a white wolf skin rug. Until a few years ago I always thought it was a bear. I remember him sitting on the wolf’s head with me in his arms and being a captive listener while he told me a story about how that wolf became a rug on his floor. It’s funny how the brain works…I don’t remember any of those stories now and I always fell asleep before he could get to the end of telling one, but I DO remember having the experience. The memory is vivid in my mind. I miss those stories and wish I could remember them.
My Great Uncle Ike also had a shop of some sorts on his property. It was not uncommon for me to be found underfoot while he worked in the shop. I remember this stick he had. I’m not sure if it was a yard stick or a drumstick or a tree branch or what. I only know that it was colorful and magical and our experiences with this stick are firmly etched in the deepest recesses of my mind. You see, each color of paint on the stick did something different. Each color was magical and I could with Uncle Ike’s assistance we’d point the stick, call out the color and magically be transported or transformed into who knows what I don’t even remember; 25 years is a long time and my memory isn’t what it used to be. I remember the house vividly, I remember the shop being “up the hill” a bit from the house and I remember how the shop was laid out. The details of what the paint colors were or what magical power they possessed are immaterial. These childhood games and stories serve to solidify two simple truths; I mattered to Great Uncle Ike, he loved me.
Another game we played was likely the precursor to the now popular game of Jenga (dang it we should have patented the idea). Only instead of playing with wooden blocks, we’d play with sugar cubes and just when I was ready to stack the last cube on the top of the wobbling tower, Uncle Ike would “accidentally” knock it down and we’d laugh and build all over again. I remember him smiling at me when he caught me stuffing a cube in my mouth from time to time too. I can still remember exactly where in his house this kitchen table was that we’d play at and where we’d sit while playing. Near the table was a display case full of all kinds of trinkets and collectibles and I’d love to look at them and imagine the world they came from. I remember Uncle Ike telling me stories about his trinket acquisitions as well.
I remember a door at the back of their kitchen. I’m not sure if it was the “main entrance” to their house or not but I remember if you were inside the house and heading out the door there was a picnic table in the yard to the right. Uncle Ike and Aunt Betty had beanbag ashtrays. Kinda like this:
I don’t remember if Uncle Ike smoked or not but I remember him turning these ashtrays into toys for me. He’d pull the “tray” part off the bean bag and I could play and play and play with that thing; seemingly without getting bored very fast and everything. Uncle Ike; just thinking his name can bring tears. He and my Great Aunt Betty’s house was always so full of adventure and mystery. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a good experience there. There’s a line in the song “That Home” by Newsboys that says “In that home we knew we were safe to be young enough to dream, find the faith to believe and in that home, love, it had no end” and this is exactly how I’d describe Great Uncle Ike and Great Aunt Betty’s home. In that home I was free to wander and explore, I was free to make-believe and play. I was free to dream and discover and make mistakes and learn and grow. In that home I was loved.
My dearest Great Uncle Ike likely never could have imagined what a profound impact all of those small gestures would have on a girl such as I. So few of the memories I have from childhood are happy and I am so grateful to have been so loved by my Uncle that every memory I have of him is a happy one. Even when he got Alzheimer’s and we couldn’t play like we used to, I still knew he loved me. Sometimes, oftentimes actually, growing up it felt like no one did and then I stop and remember the greatness that was my Great Uncle Ike.