Updated: Feb 22
It's impossible to truly capture everything I wish I could tell you, but A.A. Milne came close when he wrote, "We didn't realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun."
And man, we had some fun - didn't we?
Those chlorine-scented summers are still vivid in my mind - that first leap into the pool, swimming until dark, a vicious cycle of sunburns, and deep belly laughter that made our eyes water.
We spent a lot of time drawing together too - no structure, no intended outcomes, just creativity spilling onto whatever scraps of paper were available.
The backside of old documents became full-page comic panels with protagonists and punchlines. Junk mail became chromatic landscapes.
One of my favorite things was how you'd "modify" our coloring books, overlaying harmless cartoon imagery with visceral details and PG-13 dialogue. Dora the Explorer robbing a bank. Baby Shark smoking a cigarette.
With you, normal was optional and ordinary could effortlessly become extraordinary.
You were an artist in every sense of the word. From your charcoal sketches to that legendary painting in the bathroom, the world was your canvas.
But truth be told, the medium you worked in most beautifully wasn't oils or sculpture - it was your family.
On my wedding day, your advice to me was simple:
"Just don't do anything Uncle Chris would do.
I have to admit…I didn’t listen to you.
Because maybe you couldn't see it, but you did so many genuine, good things in your time on this earth.
To me, you were a game of "rolly bat" in the backyard at Popaw’s or Pictionary in the dining room. You were an obscene amount of (possibly illegal) fireworks on the 4th of July. You were a Vols game on a Saturday afternoon. You were deep-fried frog legs labeled "tiny chicken wings." You were a bouquet of carnations on the day we brought Mason home. You were a tattered Metallica shirt and flip flops.
You were my goofy, brilliant, teddy bear uncle.
I’ll never forget the way your eyes glistened when you held Matilda. How you never forgot my birthday for nearly 30 years. How you smiled and hid your pain. How you loved so, so fiercely.
What I'd give to get one of those big hugs of yours right now.
What I'd give to hear "Swanton Bomb!" just one more time.
What I'd give for a chance to show you the masterpiece all your brushstrokes became.
You brought boundless imagination and color and heart to our family. Thank you for the memories, even if we didn't realize we were making them.
Love you forever,