Co-written with Stan Waldman.
This story is inspired by Kent Edward Waldman and Zach Waldman
We all have someone special in our lives growing up. The world is new, and we are open to discovering as much of it as possible. We learn from our parents, but the real knowledge of life comes from that special aunt or uncle. I'm lucky, I was close to my aunts and uncles, but of course, there's always a favorite. For me and my brothers and sisters, it was hands down our Uncle Smokey.
Smokey was larger than life. A good old boy from Indiana. He was tall with army cut brown hair. His skin was a burnt tan from doing construction all day. When he moved to Florida, he lived with us for a while. He would wake my brothers up in the morning by pulling their pillows out from under them. He would hit them with the pillows while yelling, "Get up and pee, the world in on fire!" It never failed to get a laugh. Smokey was good-natured and loved to tell jokes. If one of us fell, he would say, "Did you have a nice trip? See you next fall." Yes, I agree, corny, but when you're five, you think it's the funniest thing you ever heard. One day our uncle took a bad fall, and my younger sister, Tammy, stood over him and said, "Hey, Uncle Smokey. Did you have a nice trip?" For some reason, he didn't find it funny.
When Smokey got married, he moved into a house with a pool. My best memories with my family are all of us spending the whole day swimming and playing. Smokey would make his famous beer-soaked chili, and the day would turn to night. We would spend the evening listening to his stories, and our stomachs would hurt from laughing. There wasn't anybody better in the world to us.
My brother Stan reminded me of the first joke Uncle Smokey told him.
"A man sits down at a diner. The waitress comes over to take his order. "I'll have the chicken soup, please." The waitress yells over to the kitchen, "One order of chicken soup." The man looks up at the waitress and says, "I've changed my mind. I'd like the pea soup instead. The waitress yells again to the kitchen. "Hold the chicken and make it pea." We still find that silly joke amusing because it reminds us of how much we loved our uncle.
My brother Zach has taken over the mantle of fun, crazy uncle for our nephew Kent. Zach is a comedian and magician. He is the ultimate entertainer for all ages but especially if you're a seven-year-old. Just like Smokey, he talks to Kent as if he's another friend and co-conspirator. Zach has taught him how to play chess and how to memorize a deck of cards. The only downside is that Zach lives in California, and Kent lives in Florida. When Uncle Zach does visit, they do their best to torture Kent's dad, Stan. They love teasing and ganging up on him. There's something special when you can have a partner in crime that wants to enjoy spending time with you. It's not someone who is going to lecture you or tell you what to do. It's someone who wants to listen to you and not pass judgment.
Everyone should have someone in their lives that loves you no matter what. That cheerleader, we can always count on, to lift our spirits, and applaud our successes. We all want to know a person who motivates us to accomplish our goals because we want them to be proud of us. We should be aware that we need to be that special someone for others as well. The gift of unconditional love is what our uncle gave us and taught us to share it with others.
The best part of Zach living in Santa Monica is that he can't be called into the principal's office when Kent is back in school. Our Uncle Smokey got called in a few times. Zach and Kent do Skype as much as they can. Kent is looking forward to the day when he can visit and have Uncle Zach all to himself. Zach is looking forward to the day that he can buy Kent his first shot of Jack Daniels with a beer chaser, just like our Uncle Smokey did.