My Uncle Kenny is my favorite uncle. I was having a really hard time when I was a teenager and my folks sent me to Nebraska to live with my Grandma. Kenny and Selma always looked out for me, helping Grandma out at the same time.
Grandma and I went to the rummage sales one day in the summer. I bought something like five or six Folgers coffee cans full of nuts, bolts, burrs, springs, and other miscellaneous fasteners and small parts of all shapes, sorts, and sizes. I put a bunch of newspaper down on the floor of Grandpa’s old shop (he had passed away about ten years before this, more special memories), and proceeded to dump out all six of those coffee cans of parts and pieces onto that spread of newspapers. I sat down on the cold concrete and began methodically sorting out the burrs from the sprints from the bolts from the screws from the nails from the wingnuts, and, well, you get the idea. A greasy, rusty, dirty mess in Grandpa’s shop, all alone with my treasure – then my Uncle Kenny’s farm truck rumbled by the side door of the shop. I heard the gears grind into reverse, and slowly, the truck came back into view. Uncle Kenny came to the door and looked over what I was doing. “Don’t go crazy out here, now,” he said. He and Selma invited me over for dinner that night after Grandma and I had gone on our walk and Grandma had picked her customary daily bouquet of little wildflowers from the road ditch to set on the kitchen table.
My Aunt Selma took me fishing one day and I caught somewhere around 44 sunfish from the local pond (well over the limit, I’m sure, but it was a whole bucket full of fish for Grandma). I had no idea that my Grandma liked fish, nor how much she loved fish! I brought that bucket of fish in and the scales began to fly all over the kitchen as Grandma literally attacked the cleaning and fileting of these tiny delicacies, frying them up on the stovetop after battering them in egg and flour. They were the best fish I’d ever had, and Grandma, who never ate much at a time, had a feast that Selma and I could tell she truly enjoyed! Selma held a glowing smile as she bade us good night. Selma later died of complications of a major stroke and was the longest surviving kidney recipient that the hospital in Omaha had ever transplanted to when she passed away. I loved Selma dearly.
So, today, my Uncle Kenny, whom I also love dearly, goes in for heart surgery to repair a heart valve so that he has more than a mere 60% of his heart function to work with. He described walking up the driveway and into the kitchen at Cousin Kevin’s house as feeling like he just ran a quarter mile. He’s tired a lot and needs this surgery to go well. At 83 years of age, he’s not a candidate for open heart surgery, but the surgeons are going to fix his heart valve laparascopically by going in through his femoral artery and up to his heart. I’m praying that everything goes well. My uncle is healthy as a horse, with the exception of his heart valve, which has always caused a murmur (the Army took him anyway). I guess I really look up to Uncle Kenny for a lot of reasons – hard-working farmer, Veteran, and really the glue of the family. Most of all, he always took the time to care and laugh and tell a joke to make someone smile. Uncle Kenny’s a great man, and I hope all goes well today and in the coming days.