There is something special about Uncle Johnny. Standing solid at six-foot-two inches tall and three hundred pounds, he is a force to be reckoned with, but despite his girth, my uncle has a tender heart. My favorite photo is the one with Uncle Johnny squeezed into one my toddler chairs while we were having tea time. My dad took that picture photo but he had to put the camera down to help him out of the chair. That would have been a good photo.
My dad is the serious one in the family, but my uncle is the comedian. Since I was the first grandchild, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my uncle before he started having his own children. There was always a special bond between us.
On my eighth birthday, my Aunt Dorothy took me out to lunch at my favorite place. After the waitress took our lunch order, Aunt Dot sat back to tell me about my uncle.
“When you were born, it was a special day and God worked a miracle for us.”
“What do you mean, Aunt Dot?”
“Honey, when your uncle first saw you in that hospital room, you melted his heart like butter on a hot griddle.”
“Wow. That’s interesting.”
“Yes, and he was a tough guy back then but no one could talk any sense into him. His friends were always going in and out of jail. He used to joke that he only went to church to renew his get-out-of-jail-free card.”
The food arrived and after a brief prayer, I took a bite of my cheeseburger. Some of the ketchup and mustard dripped down the side of the burger and landed on my chin. Aunt Dot laughed and handed me a napkin.
“Thanks.” I said. “That doesn't sound like the uncle I know. Is that why he waited so long to pop the question?”
“It could have been. We were arguing so much back then, we just didn’t realize that the timing wasn’t right.”
“But Aunt Dot, what was he thinking? You’re pretty, you’re smart, you’re a great cook, and you always smell nice.” I said, stuffing a hot French fry in my mouth.
“Thank you, Sweetie.” She was quiet for a moment and then she wiped a tear from her face.
“Auntie, don’t cry!” I handed her my clean napkin. She took it and wiped her face.
“These are happy tears.” She said, regaining her composure. “After your parents got married, I didn’t think God heard my prayers anymore. Every time I tried to talk some sense into your uncle, we just ended up fighting.”
“Did Uncle Johnny ever hit you?” I asked.
“Oh no, honey. He’s not that crazy!” She laughed. “When I thought God turned his back on me, a little miracle showed up eight years ago.”
“What happened, Auntie?”
“You were born, silly!” She joked.
“No. What happened with Uncle Johnny?” I pushed my empty plate aside.
“When we visited you in the hospital room, your uncle walked over and you let out a little giggle when he picked you up. He held you the entire time and when you fell asleep in his arms, he actually cried.”
“Uncle Johnny cried…holding me?” I asked after taking another sip of my cola.
“Yes. I couldn’t believe it. Here you were fast asleep with this smile on your face and he was crying hard. He wasn’t letting little tears drop, he was bawling!
“Wow, I would never believe it. That’s funny.”
“I think by holding you so soon after you were born, made him realize how precious life was. He ended up going to church that afternoon and rededicated his life to Jesus Christ and just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better; he popped the question that night.”
“Wow, Aunt Dot. I’m speechless. What a way for him to step up to the plate.”
“Here I was thinking God had turned his back on me but He was working things out in his own timing. God wanted to use the right vessel and he found you, an innocent little baby to reach right down into the heart of a good man.”
“Well, Aunt Dot, I never realized just how special that day was for our family. This is amazing.” I said. I leaned over and gave my aunt a big hug.
“God is amazing, honey.”
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