My uncle, the youngest brother on my mom's side, came to visit last week. I asked my 7 year old how she would descibe Wendell's visit. She called it an explosion of fun--hence the title. He came for my cousin's wedding and stayed until my mom's memorial. If my mom is a firework, my uncle is dynamite. To announce his coming he left a message on our machine that went something like this...
GREAT NEWS!!! I get to come stay with you guys for a WHOLE WEEK!!! How could that kind of enthusiasm not rub off on you?! He did come and did stay for the whole week and it turned out to be a huge blessing to have him here. With his movie-making magic and my photos we put together a DVD tribute of my mom's life. He was able to color her life with the stories behind the photos. He is a master storyteller.
The first night he arrived was a whirlwind of fun. He brought each of the kids inflatable T-Rexes and water squirty toys. A water fight quickly ensued which I had to usher outside with Wendell dripping at the center of it. After dinner he announced that we must all go out for ice cream his treat. So off we went to the local creamery. He had all the kids surrounding him at the table licking their treats, laughing at his jokes, and staring in wonder at his riddles. Even kids that weren't ours came over to our table to join in the excitement. At bedtime he told all the kids a gutsy version of David and Goliath. The story was puncuated with tickles and horsey rides on his knee. He is the cat in the hat.
The neighborhood kids were fascinated by Uncle Wendell. I started calling him the Pied Piper because of the posse of kids he daily attracted. He loved having a fresh audience for his repertoire of jokes. He even made some up on the fly and the kids still laughed their heads off. He asked each of them their names and made them feel special by asking them about their lives. When he heard that some of the kids were headed down to the canal he wanted to come too.
One day he spent the whole morning candidly telling me his entire life story-- the good and bad, no holds barred. How he suffered job loss, break-ups, lost his faith. How he put his life together, found true love, married and became a father, and how he owed that all to my mom who saved his life many years back by placing a timely phonecall that prevented him from taking his life. He told of his missionary adventures in South America, of sailing charter yachts to Hawaii and the Marshall Islands. He shared heart wrenching experiences of being a Red Cross volunteer in the guts of the San Francisco earthquake.
We took Adrie out of school and took the two youngest to the Indian museum and Cove Fort. An avid historian, Wendell gave the tour guides more info than they had to give.
He even came to my music practice. He put his video skills to work by recording us playing, each time shouting our praises, "You guys are FANTASTIC!!" We played an Irish pub song and invited him to take the vocals. He's acknowledged he wasn't a singer but "what the heck,' he reasoned, "life is an adventure." He was such a good sport and we had lot of fun that evening.
Wendell cooked us breakfast, dinner, treated us to lunch. He fixed my stubborn door hinges and replaced the lock on my bedroom door that never worked. He generally spoiled us. He let me cry to him about my troubles and gave me hugs and wisdom from the scriptures. He was truly a blessing and I'm grateful to have him in my life.