I’m planning to make it to the Yuba City Walk to End Alzheimer’s event this morning (starts at 8:30 a.m. at Gauche Park) as part of the Mighty Marysville Kiwanians team, but in memory of my Uncle Carl Wylie.
Uncle Carl (“Paunch” to some people around Gage County, Neb.) was the bachelor uncle who picked us kids up nearly every weekend (saving us from being killed by our parents) and hauled us around with him as he roamed around the country, dropping in to visit with people, sometimes shoeing a horse, sometimes running a 4-H project, sometimes helping someone put up hay, preparing an arena for a horse show, fixing a fence, shooting toward pheasants, or playing cribbage. I was the last local kid in the family, so got his full attention longer than most. But that attention was limited. He wasn’t one to hover over a kid ... if he’d left a tool in the truck, he’d send you away for it; if there were other kids at whatever farm we ended up on, he’d tell you to go play and leave him alone; if there weren’t other kids he’d give you something to do ... maybe work a chute so he could practice roping or put you on a slow-moving tractor with a springtooth on the back and tell you to “go in circles” and “don’t tell your mom about this.”
He had a temper and if you were too much of a nuisance or had gotten into something you shouldn’t have or were committing some stupid thing, he’d throw a jab at you but never quite make the connection. Once in awhile his boot might graze your backside, but he was short and his legs didn’t reach that far. He wasn’t above an elaborate curse now and then.
We knew he had his flaws, but he never dwelt on ours, so vice versa.
When we were around strangers, say in a waiting room or a potluck, it wasn’t uncommon to watch him sidle up to someone he’d not met and start a conversation and after a while figure out how they were related. It was his special art.
He was like that his whole life, up until the last couple years.
The last time I saw him, he told me I was getting some color back in my face. Then he wandered off. That happened a couple times. (I believe that’s something he’d told me a couple times when I was young and had fallen off of something and he was waiting for me to get my breath.... sort of as an encouragement: “Hey, you gotta little color back in your face ... can you get up?”
At the end of that visit, he said, “let’s go on home.” And he wandered off again.
In the end, big chunks of him left until he was mostly gone awhile before he was gone.
I could go on, but not without becoming maudlin and he’d have no patience for that. Were he reading this, he’d pretend like he’d read the whole thing, he’d say, “that’s real nice,” and he’d turn to the comics.
Carl is not the only person we knew or know who’s been stricken by some form of dementia.
We usually throw our support behind local causes. In this case, supporting the End Alzheimer’s organization ... isn’t exactly local, but it is. The chances are real good that everyone of us is somehow connected to someone who has the disease. That makes it a local deal.
It’s pleasant to hang out at Gauche for a little bit before the walk begins. You’re in a big bunch of people who have something in common and hope to effect change. There is music, coffee, cheers, visiting. Show up. Take a walk with us. Or just drop some money off.
Get a whirlygig to remember someone by. Think about how they were.