Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Visit From Uncle Jack

My Uncle Jack and my mom, in Spokane, Washington, August 1945. They are smiling because World War II has just ended and Jack, much to his own surprise, is safely home from the Pacific.

My mom's younger brother Jack stopped by for a visit the other day. He wanted to see his older sister just to say hello. It was a casual thing. A visit between eighty-ish siblings and their spouses. The only notable thing about it is that Uncle Jack had to drive more than a thousand miles to "drop in." He still lives in Mom's hometown of Spokane, Washington.

Jack is another of the "ordinary" heroes in our family and in America's family. As a teenager he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, qualified as a pilot, and flew B-24 Liberators in the South Pacific. Never talked about it that I know of.

But the family legend is that he got airsick on every flight and vowed he'd never fly again if he got home alive. What none of us thought of until recently was that he may not have been airsick: he might have been sick to his stomach from what he saw from the cockpit of his bomber.

In any case, he kept his vow and never flew again, except one time, when he had to fly his mother, my grandmother, to our house for a visit shortly before her death. That was about thirty years ago and he's stayed back on the ground since.

He didn't exactly live the rest of his life without danger. After his service in the war, he worked as a police officer for four decades, serving and protecting the people of Spokane, Washington.

In his early eighties, he is still the kind of imposing guy you'd prefer not to have stop you on the highway for speeding. Over six feet tall and strong of sinew, he still lifts weights. And still hops into his car (American made) and drives a few thousand miles to drop in and see his sister.

Serving and protecting. It seems he has spent his life doing that. He did learn, however, that he preferred to do it from a vehicle on the ground than from a cockpit: who could blame him for that?

Uncle Jack and his Harley, with my long-legged sister at left, me, and, at right Jack's son Kit, our cousin. For many years, Uncle Jack rode his own motorcycle "for fun" all over the U.S.

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