My life has been blessed by a group of uncles that are all different but all worth looking up to for one reason or another. On my paternal side of the family, Uncle Duane made a very large impact on my life. He was a soft spoken man who always spoke very wisely. He was a minister and his personality fit his role in life extremely well. I remember him as caring about others all the time. I would hear him inquire sincerely of others how they were feeling, how certain things were progressing with them and in his special voice and his eyes there was no doubt that he was totally sincere.
He always seemed to have time for his nephews. He would take time to talk to me when I was very young and listen intently. I always felt that when I was talking to him, whether I was six years old or twenty years old, he took what I said seriously. I remember one Christmas when we were gathered at my Grandma Clark's house for dinner. I had been given a little plastic guitar that year. He was sitting on the piano bench looking around the family gathering when he saw me sitting on the floor strumming mindlessly on my guitar. He called me over to him and asked me about the new toy. He wondered where I got it, if I liked it and asked me if I wanted to him to show me something on it. He proceeded to show me how to play a couple of simple chords on that little plastic thing and he praised me when it seemed I had learned from him. As far as he was concerned I was a smart little boy and there was not a doubt in my mind that he enjoyed that guitar as much as I did for that short ten minute period of time.
We would visit Uncle Duane and Aunt Velma on vacation. They had a daughter the age of my oldest sister and another daughter the age of my next oldest sister. No one my age was there but Uncle Duane made sure that I had some one to visit with. He would bring out things to show me and to talk about with me. One year he brought out a little tape recorder. It was the old tiny reel tape recorders that would hold maybe twenty minutes of sound on them. We spent a whole day almost playing with the recorder. He would record me and play it back, then record my little brother and play it back and sometimes would record all three of us at one time. I think he was as amazed at the technology of the time as I was amazed thinking this recorded had some magic built into it. It was obvious that he was having as much fun as I was during times like that.
During part of his life he worked at a gas station in addition to his ministry. One day when we were visiting his family he took me to work with him. We got up very early and went to the gas station where I helped him open it up and get displays set up outside for the days business. This was back in the days when gas station attendants actually pumped the gas for the customer as well as wash the window and check the oil and tires. When ever a car pulled in Uncle Duane and I would walk out to the car to see what the customer wanted. At one point during the day Uncle Duane was filling a car up and was in the process of washing the windows. I was standing next to the pump and decided to walk around the car to go watch him at work. My mistake was that I walked under the gas hose that was pumping the fuel into the car. The nozzle came out of the car and splashed gas on me. Uncle Duane saw this happen and told me to go was my hands while he finished up with this customer. I had gas in my hair, on my clothes and everywhere else it seemed. After the customer had left he checked me over to see if I was okay. It suspect that it didn't take him long to figure out that I was a lost cause as far as cleaning me up. Somehow he made sure I got back to his house where I was bathed and given a clean set of clothes.
The thing about this incident is that it shows what kind of a human being this man was. He did not get upset. He reassured me that accidents do happen. He calmly explained what I did wrong so that I wouldn't make the mistake again and he never broached the subject again. It was in the past and no harm had been done to the gas station or to me. He then allowed me to go help him again. This was the kind of man he was.
He was caring. He was sincere. He was kind. He was an uncle that any kid in the world would be more than lucky to have. I always looked forward to seeing Aunt Velma and Uncle Duane. They were special and their visits were special. When I heard that Uncle Duane had become ill it saddened me a lot. When Uncle Duane died it added to the growing hole in my life that started forming when my other Uncles had died. I loved the man. I never told him that I did. Big mistake on my part.