"I made enough money to buy Miami but I pissed it away so fast."
Right around the time I was old enough to remember important events in my life (let's say around 5-7), almost all of my mother's 6 siblings started to get married. I was basically a professional flower girl. I even got rented out to friends of my aunt & uncle for the job on at least one occasion.
The way it typically went is that we'd all head to Saint Rose of Lima in Miami Shores, Florida for the nuptials, my grandmother would sing and then we'd head on over to the Knights of Columbus Hall. My grandfather was a prominent member (honestly, I have no idea what this means, in retrospect it could be that he just drank there often but he is still held in high esteem, anyhow.)
I do not even remember which wedding it was (my guess is maybe my Aunt Jenny and Uncle Jeff), but at some point, late in the evening, the DJ played a Pirate Looks at Forty by Saint Jimmy Buffet. My aunt, my mother and their five brothers all sweaty and drunk with happiness and Budweiser, all made a circle, arms around each other and sang this song on the dance floor. I was in the middle of this circle with my younger brother.
I know that it is unbecoming to admit to favorites in one's family, but my favorite uncle is also my godfather and so, I do not feel so bad about admitting it. That night, I remember my uncle Mike most vividly. I honestly don't know why. I just do. It is this memory that flashes in my head today as I raise a glass to my favorite uncle on his birthday.
There are other moments, too. The kind of shit that when you look back at it were moments that laid the foundation to who I am as a person today. As a parent, I know all too well that you do your best to instill lessons but you really just have no clue if any of it is sticking, so it is all that remarkable how deep an impact my uncle Mike still has on my life.
He once made me sign a contract vowing that I would try new and different food and not be a picky eater. I remember barfing grape soda colored sick on his office's cream color carpet. I remember the poster of actual horse shit that hung on his wall. I know him to be a spicy, emotional and witty man who has a deeply sentimental side. He loves deeply and fiercely. He has a smart mouth. I have no idea how on earth I turned out to be so much like him but for that I am deeply grateful.
His life was helping to run our family bowling alley and when that went away, he became a long haul trucker. I try to call him as often as possible and look forward to our calls. We talk about food (he eats shitty truck stop food on the road while he'd rather be able to cook), booze (he is not allowed to drink when not off at home) and life. The road has made him very reflective. He told me recently that he loves rose with ice cubes in it and "does not give a fuck what anyone has to say about it."
He is in the hospital today, his birthday.
And sure, this blog post is not a home cooked meal, sangria or a trip on Biscayne Bay on EMBO, his boat, but it a small way to tell a special person in my life, a man who provided me many opportunities, many life lessons and a whole lot of fun, that I am so grateful for him. I love you, mother fucker. Get well soon.