where the writers are
Tickle Bugs

My Uncle Stewart is a genius. He doesn't know it, but he is.

There are these bugs called, "Daddy Long Legs" in Pennsylvania where I grew up. They look like spiders because of their long black legs and orange bodies, but they only have six legs. They are actually insects, but that's all just mental belching. Pardon me.

While raising his children, my cousins, Uncle Stu taught them that daddy long legs weren't to be feared. He didn't tell them not to fear them but showed them to not fear them by calling them, "Tickle Bugs." He made an example of himself by putting one on his arm and then laughed and giggled as it crawled across.

Before long his girls were doing the same thing.

My uncle Stu is, or perhaps was, a hippie. He had the long hair thing going on in the late seventies. I once saw his long hair (I was perhaps ten years old) and said, "You look funny with long hair!" His perfect reply was: "not funny. Different. I look different with long hair."

He has a way of turning ordinary things into fun things to do. He also has a way of accepting things as they are. For example, he has a boat (actually many boats each with its own story) on Lake Erie. One day my Step Dad was driving Uncle Stu's boat while pulling Stu on water skis. My Step Dad accidentally drove the boat into a shallow bay and the motor began scraping the bottom of the lake. The motor bobbed up and down bouncing off the bottom. My Step Dad realized his mistake and throttled back. My unsinkable Uncle Stu sank on his skis to his knees and made this "Oh my God!" surprised face and then smiled really big. The water was only to his knees: clearly not a good depth for an outboard motor. He actually thought it was funny. It did several hundred dollars in damage to his propeller but my Uncle took it in stride.

That example of calm and poise in a situation that would have set off many folks became a mold for my desire to be non-reactive. I know that he was fuming inside. I could feel it. But he didn't show it and he wanted it to not be important because he knew in his heart of hearts that it wasn't important. That was one of the first examples of non reaction I witnessed, although I really didn't know it until, well, ten minutes ago.

Through his examples, perhaps it was my Uncle Stu who first helped me begin to break out of the mold of my upbringing. Perhaps it was he who first helped me to recognize its okay to have different ways of thinking.

I can't really know. However, I can say that I remember his actions and appreciate his ability to step out of "normal" and into "alternate" ideals. I certainly owe him thanks for trying to steer me away from my boxed thinking.

I'll leave you with one last story about uncle Stu. His eldest daughter had just gotten married and he had drank a bit more beer than perhaps he should. He looked at me and said, "I bet you just laugh looking at all these old drunks."

At this moment in time I felt the full impact of his question and intuitively replied, "I don't see old drunks. I see a room full of people I love and respect."

I hope I touch his life as much as he touches mine.

God bless Uncle Stu.