Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who taught you to love books?

Who taught you to love books?

My Uncle Phil. And it is a bit of a long story, so first, here is a portion of the last (and one of the few) letter I wrote to him. He passed away a few weeks afterwords.
Because of you, I love to read. And this is the big one Uncle Phil. This is the biggest one of all. I can still remember going to your parent’s place when you were cleaning it out. You let me dad and I pick through some things and gave us a paper bag full of old books. It was some old series called The Hardy Boys. At the time I loved how they smelled more than the idea of reading them, but as I began to read them, my life changed. I found I loved to read. I could escape from the real world and solve mysteries. I began collecting more of the series. And along the way I discovered other books were out there that I liked to read. Books with dragons, magic, and heroes. I couldn’t tell you how many books I’ve read since the day I left with that paper bag. But I can tell you I had fun reading them. And the best part of all, my daughter loves to read now. At the age of five she still struggles with words, but I can see that look in her eye when she sits down with a book. It’s the same look I had when I started reading The Hardy Boys.
Now, some background on Uncle Phil. I usually tell people he married my aunt just because I like to see them make funny faces. So I will back up even more to give a bit more history behind the man.

Uncle Phil was born, well, a long time before I was. His parents were nice from the stories I have heard and they were both very intelligent people. Uncle Phil married my mother's sister, Diana. Uncle Phil and Aunt Diana were (and still are) the source of many good stories in my life. Whenever I traveled to, from, or through Chicago, there was always time taken out for a visit to their house in Homewood. A house I can still remember quite distinctly. Diana and Phil were the powerhouse on my mother's side of the family. I do not know if it was their personality, their grace, or something supernatural, but you could always count on having a great time there.

So when Uncle Phil's parents passed away, it was a sad time for him. And on one of our many trips west, my father and I stopped as usual at the "Diana & Phil Rest Stop." Uncle Phil was kind enough to take us both to his parent's apartment where he essentially let us browse through their stuff to see if there was anything we wanted. While I am sure everything that Phil and the rest of his family wanted was already taken, it still felt wonderful (and awkward) to be invited to somebody's house to pick through their stuff. It was like an estate sale where everything was free.

One of those items I picked to take home, somewhat reluctantly, was a set of musty books. Something called the Hardy Boys. To this day, I still love that smell of musty, old books. And to this day, I still love to read (even though my Kindle does not smell musty).

As time passed, Aunt Diana passed. Uncle Phil remarried to the ex-wife of my mother's brother. So the in-laws (or "outlaws" as Uncle Phil liked to say) got married. For me, it was no big deal. They were still "Aunt" and "Uncle," they were just married. I am sure others thought differently.

And that is the story of Uncle Phil. Although he impacted my life beyond teaching me to love reading, he will still be missed. But I am glad I can find him again whenever I want simply by reading a book.

The UFO Team has several photos of Uncle Phil, but seeing as his death is still fairly recent, I have refrained from showing them as well as disclosing his full name.

- Numerous facts were gathered from the private Richard Family Estate collection. These facts span numerous sources of information and contain genealogical data, photos, and newspaper articles.

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