Pinned face down on the ground with my arm twisted up like a pretzel behind my back and my face in the dirt, I grimaced with pain through gritted teeth as I wimpered..."Uncle!"
"Say it so I can hear it!", Nick said as he gave one last twist to my pretzeled arm and a final knee press into the middle of my back.
"Uncle!" I shouted aloud, and Nick Corrigan got up with a smirk on his face and watched as I eased myself up off the ground, brushed myself off and slowly headed for home.
Even at the tender age of twelve a guy has pride, but this was the second beating I'd taken from Nick in a week, so I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever live to find self confidence, self-esteem or even just my own place in the sun.
I walked in the house only to find a strange man with my mom. "Hi, Honey", she said without even noticing my deplorable condition of dirty clothes, bruised face and wounded pride, "say hello to your Uncle Karl."
I said "hello", shook his hand and immediately zoomed upstairs to my room. Yeah, sure...Uncle Karl. What happened to Uncle George, Uncle Chuck, Uncle Merle...geez...how many "Uncles" had I known in the past few years anyway? I couldn't remember. Who does mom think she's kidding, anyway? I wasn't born yesterday.
Opening the top drawer of my nightstand, I took out Dad's Marine Corps emblem with it's eagle, globe and anchor and held it tightly in my bruised and dirty hands, trying my best to hold back the tears that were threatening to erupt, but for the second time in a day I lost the fight and surrendered, crying "Uncle."
My Dad had been a Marine in WWII and was killed on an island in the Pacific when I was only a baby, so I had never known him - but at this moment I would have given Four Uncles and perhaps even an aunt For Just ONE Dad!
Fast Forward six years
Nick Corrigan lay face down in the dirt, but THIS time MY knee was heavy on HIS back, and it was I who awaited the magic "Word".
After begrudgingly coughing up "Uncle", I reached down and helped him up, shook his hand, and said, "Thanks, Nick, for reminding me I've got a date with Dad's and my favorite Uncle. See you around."
After leaving a note at the house for my Mom and the new Uncle "Whatshisname", I took a bus downtown and got off in front of a building that had a portrait of Dad's Uncle and my Great Uncle in the front window. He was an elderly man with white hair, a goatee, and wearing a nifty Top Hat with a blue band of white stripes and dressed in a Star Spangled suit of navy blue with red, white and blue striped trousers.
Across the front of the picture was printed: "I WANT YOU", as his right index finger pointed at ME. I smiled, then saluted our Nation's most familiar military icon, Uncle Sam, then pulled open the Marine Corps recruiting door and walked in.
"At your service, Sir, sign me up! My Dad answered Uncle Sam's call, and I would like to follow in my father's footsteps!"
Uncle Sam was the only REAL uncle I have ever had, and today my grandson serves him too Semper fi!
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