"Grandma, what are you doing?" a young girl asked as she watched her grandmother strike a match and blow it out, one after another, after another.
"I'm making match sticks to send to Uncle Eddie," she responded.
"Who's Uncle Eddie?" the girl asked.
"He's my youngest boy. He lives far away and likes to make things out of match sticks. You see this frame," she said holding up a lovely golden colored frame. "Uncle Eddie made 'em. He made that boat too!" she exclaimed with pride as she showed off a very detailed ship made of match sticks.
The little girl was astonished. Her Uncle Eddie must have been the most amazing artist on earth. She picked up the boat as her grandmother whispered a warning of "careful" to her. The boat was glossy and the colors of goldish yellow and dark browns blended together making a beautiful piece of art.
"I want to make things like Uncle Eddie," the little girl told her mother later that day.
"Where did you hear that name?" her mother asked in angry tone.
"Grandma told me," the little girl stuttered. "He makes things."
"Do you know why he makes things? He makes things because he’s a bad, bad man who the police put in jail! Don't you ever mention his name again!"
With that, the little girl scurried to her bedroom. She pulled from her pocket a small handful of burnt matches that her grandma had given her. She pulled out her bottle of glue and tried her best to make the matches become a beautiful boat! It wasn’t as easy as Uncle Eddie made it look!
Some time passed. The little girl was once again at her grandmother’s house. This time grandmother was busy putting together a quilt in the middle of summer. “Grandma, it’s too hot for a quilt now,” the little girl said thinking that her grandma was just being silly.
“It’s not for now, it’s for later. Your Uncle Eddie is coming home in the Winter and he will need a warm quilt. Oh he’s such a sweet boy. I can’t wait until you meet him,” she continued.
“Momma says I shouldn’t talk about him. Momma says he’s a bad man.”
“Never you mind what your momma says!” her grandma snapped. “My Eddie is a sweet boy, a loving boy, a he’s coming home.”
As summer passed, the quilt became bigger and bigger until it was finished. The weather became cooler and the leaves began to change color and drift through the air. Fall was her grandma’s favorite time of the year. The little girl took many long walks through the woods with her grandma. Soon it would be time to meet her Uncle Eddie and find out how he made those matches stick together so well.
One evening the little girl saw her daddy’s truck pull up in the drive way and she ran to meet him. While she stood with both hands wrapped around her daddy’s neck, several loud motor bikes came roaring up the drive way beside them.
“Who’s that?” the little girl asked.
“It’s time to go home,” her daddy answered as he picked her up and put her
into the truck.
As the truck pulled down the drive way, the little girl looked up and saw one of the bikers waving “bye-bye” to her. She waved back.
“Don’t wave at him!” her daddy snapped again.
For a while the little girl wasn’t allowed to see her grandma. She wrote letters about how much she missed her grandma. She whined everyday to go visit her grandma. Finally her mother got tired of hearing it and dropped her off at her grandma’s house for a day. She hurried inside and found her grandma busy in the kitchen doing laundry. She watched as her grandma lugged heavy buckets of wet jeans outside to the clothesline and began hanging them. “Why doesn’t he help you?” she asked her grandma.
“He’s busy with his friends,” her grandma whispered with a tired smile.
Later that day the little girl was sitting on the floor playing with her grandma’s button can. It was a can full of every kind of button imaginable. Grandma would give the little girl a needle and thread and let her stack the buttons over and over again. That afternoon as she was playing, she heard the front door open. She looked up to see that same man from weeks before. He had long hair and pictures on his arms.
“Eddie, have you eaten?” her grandma asked.
“Nah!” the man grumbled.
“Eddie, do you need a drink? I made some tea.”
“I’m good Mom!”
“Well,” her grandma started.
“I said I’m good!” he shouted back.
“Eddie, get in here and meet your baby cousin!”
her grandma said in a demanding voice.
The little girl looked up from the floor as the man with the long hair and pictures on his arms reached down to her. He lifted her up to the ceiling, smiled at her, and put her back down on the floor. Then she watched as he walked back out the door and slammed the screen.
A few years passed by. The girl wasn’t so little anymore. She’d heard many terrible things about her Uncle Eddie. He was a liar, a thief, a druggy, and many other things the girl would never dare to repeat. There was a lot of talk of him being in prison at various times. The girl struggled with her thoughts. She remembered a silly wave and being lifted to the ceiling with a smile. In her mind, he didn’t seem so bad. In her mother’s mind, he was the devil! His looks were similar to the country singer Willy Nelson and so the girl was never allowed to see Willy Nelson on the television because it reminded her mother of the “terrible Uncle Eddie”.
One day the girl walked outside. By now her grandmother was getting older and the girl and her parents had moved onto the property. Outside lying in a chase chair was a strange man with long reddish hair and a cold stare on his face. At first she was frightened by the stranger, then, she realized how much he resembled the singer.
“Mom is that?”
“Stay away from him!” her mother demanded.
The girl did as she was told. She walked to the far side of the yard and when she looked back for another glance, he waved “bye-bye” to her.
The man lied around in the chase lounger day after day for several days. Then one weekend, the girl had a friend over and they were outside playing Frisbee when a police car pulled into the drive way. She and her friend watched from a distance as her daddy talked to the officer. There was pointing and shouting and much cursing going on. It wasn’t until later that she found out what had happened. Several customer chain saws were missing from her daddy’s small work shed in the back. There were also several stolen tools.
Years later when the girl was a teenager, her grandmother who was in very poor health came to live with them. Her mother had given up on nursing the dear lady back to health.
“She won’t eat, stubborn old fool!” her mother exclaimed.
The girl waited for her mother to leave the room and then counted out the necessary prescriptions for her grandmother. She crushed the pills into baby food and spoon fed her grandma without any problem. For several weeks she stayed by her grandma’s side talking to her, spoon feeding her, and giving her sips of water. Despite her best of efforts to prevent the horrible turn of events that took place, her grandmother passed away.
The family argued over land and a few possessions. The name Uncle Eddie came up occasionally but the girl never actually saw anyone call to tell him that his mother was dead. It was a very sad time for the girl. The one person in her life that she felt truly loved her, was now gone. The girl became annoyed by the hate in her house and began spending time sitting in the woods alone. She stayed in a lovely place that her grandma had called “Dream Valley”. There the girl could dream in peace.
More years passed and the girl continued to hear the worst of her Uncle Eddie. A frame he’d made sat on her mother’s counter top but she was sure it was just out of spite. As the girl turned seventeen, she was leading a very dark life and was almost relieved when her mother kicked her out. Later she went back to see her parents after she was grown and married. “What ever happened to Uncle Eddie?” she boldly asked.
“Oh, didn’t you hear?” her mother said as if she were going to announce the local football team had lost. “He died a while back, down in Florida.”
The young woman was stunned by the news. Though she’d never known Uncle Eddie she knew how much he meant to her grandma. What a terrible loss. A young man, involved in drugs and drinking, in and out of prison his whole adult life, and now he was dead.
Several years passed. The young woman’s mother had passed away and now two years later she was preparing to bury her daddy also. She sat solemnly at her daddy’s service staring blankly at the closed casket with the draped American flag.
“Who’s that?” her older sister asked.
She glanced in that direction, “I don’t know.”
Later as she stood to watch the casket being carried from the church, she once again glanced in the direction of the stranger. He was gone. She stepped outside to thank those who had attended. Suddenly the stranger appeared. He was an older man, a little heavy, with graying red hair. The young woman stepped closer to her older sister.
“Do you know who I am?” the man asked in a gruff voice. “You don’t, do you?”
Both women shook their heads silently.
“I’m your Uncle Eddie,” the man leaned in and whispered.
Together they leaped toward him and hugged him with all their might! The older sister stepped away and said “boy, it’s been a long time.”
The younger sister jumped back at the man for a second time and hugged him again. This time he wrapped both arms around her and held her for a few seconds.
“You just wouldn’t believe what they told me!” she said. They stood on the side walk talking long after the funeral.
“Oh, I can imagine,” he said looking down.
“They told me you were dead,” she said. “Yet here you are, not dead.”
The aging man leaned toward her with a gleam in his eye and said, “I did die. I died to myself so I could have life in Jesus.”
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