Monday, October 02, 2006
UNCLE BUCK GROWS UP
My brother Mike, the youngest of 4 kids, was a skinny red-headed imp with a King Kong sized imagination. By the time he hit high school, he developed muscles and played varsity football starting his sophmore year. He went from scrawny to GQ. He had it all...brains, looks, personality, and a sense of humor. I thought of the four us, he would be the one who be the star, the success, the president of some company with a wife and 2.5 kids and the house with the white picket fence.
Early in his college career, I knew something wasn't adding up. I found out years later when he confided in me, that a very private and devestating tragedy had derailed my brother. He went through the pain of this crisis alone. None of us knew why Mike the Superstar, was unfocused and seemingly unmotivated. Many in my family looked down on him for wasting his life. I just wish I had known earlier to have helped shoulder his burden, just as he has always helped to shoulder mine.
When the movie "Uncle Buck" came out, I had to laugh. Uncle Buck was my brother! Unfocused, meandering through life, uncommitted....but also caring, and kind, and totally, outrageously fun! He was the favorite uncle, who could be counted on for the most unusual and captivating gifts or outings.
Mike eventually met a woman whom he married. He became step-father to 2 adolescent boys and a cute little girl with curly red-hair who looked just like Little Orphan Annie. Blending families is a tough thing and there have been times that I have had to tell Mike I thought he was being too rigid and demanding with the kids. Or that his teasing was over the top. But Mike has also been there for every parent/teacher conference, every birthday, every graduation and most of the in-between, day-to-day stuff. I know it hurts him when the kids seem to prioritize their biological dad over him. I also know that he knows that if any of the kids are in trouble, he is who they turn to first.
Last night, Mike made sure that his youngest, his daughter Katie, had a wonderful party for her 21st birthday. When she opened her presents, his gift was last. He made a little speech about how special this occassion was and how he had wanted to get her something for her 21st birthday that she would have for always. He gave her a long box which we all knew could only hold jewelry. Katie opened it to find the most gaudy and hideous pink and silver bracelet that was ever made. She hid her disappointment and politely thanked him. In true Uncle Buck fashion, he told her the first was a joke, and gave her a 2nd box. Inside was a delicate and beautiful diamond necklace...the kind of necklace she will cherish and hand down to a future daughter or daughter-in-law.
I was proud of my brother last night. I am proud of my brother and the man he has become. And I love it that Uncle Mike still has a bit of the Uncle Buck left that he shares with us from time to time.