Over the years in our lives, we get to interact with many people some of who make little or no impact on our lives while others leave a lasting impression. One of the people who fall under the category of “most influential people” in my life is my uncle Jack. While most people may contend that it is almost typical for one’s uncle to be an influential figure in a person’s life, I believe that my uncle Jack stands out from the stereotypical uncles in more than one count.
While my parents and my other relatives thought that Jack was unusual, I found in him a fascinating as well as complex man who was always a source of intrigue and inspiration.
Physically, my uncle was a tall person with the physique of a body builder. His impressive physical attributes made him conspicuous and to a stranger, his domineering figure was bound to elicit a second glance. However, his build was not intimidating as one might expect. Quite on the contrary, one could almost immediately sense the warmth and kindness that radiated from this giant.
Uncle Jack dressing was unique and I always thought that he was something of a fashion maverick. His rebellious style made him very popular with me and my siblings despite my parent’s discomfort. While his hair was silky and always well cut and his clothes fashionable enough, he did not conform to the traditional “adult” attires and he dressed in a manner that distinguished him from the rest of the adults.
At one time he wore an extravagantly slashed green doublet that was more suited for a man in the 17th century to my cousin’s wedding. This made him the center of attention, a fact that greatly annoyed the bride and the groom!
Jack’s ways were unlike those of any other uncle that I have heard of or seen. Typically, uncles act as proxy parents and they guide children in as much the same way as a parent would; Jack was the complete opposite of this. He acted more like an elder brother and hardly ever tried to control my life.
His cool and “hip” manner meant that I could have him take me to the parks or even my friend’s parties without fearing that he would chaperone me or worse still, embarrass me in front my friends by saying or doing something inappropriate.
My friends were visibly jealous of me because of him and for this reason I took every opportunity to flaunt my cool uncle to my friends. In living up to his cool personality, Uncle Jack never at any time complained of being overwhelmed by my requests though I am sure they must have been overwhelming at the least.
In terms of his personality, Jack was like no other person that I have ever encountered. Most people act in a predictable manner and with enough time and exposure to a person, I can almost accurately predict their next move. This was not the case with my uncle Jack. He always seemed to gravitate between absolute ecstasy and raging anger and I never quite figured what triggered either of this moods.
In retrospective, I can speculate that this more than anything else is what made my parents, relatives and other adults around me perceive Jack as weird and someone to keep away from. While for the better part Jack played the role of a “simpleton”, every now and then he would let out a stream of well articulated powerful and eloquent statements which would reveal the brilliant mind that lay dormant beneath the nondescript exterior.
One of the characteristic habits of my uncle was his love for books. His reading taste was wide; ranging from fictional books to huge formidable looking books on philosophy that were bound to dissuade all but the seasoned readers.
I can hardly remember a time when my uncle was not sporting a book and most members of the family wrongly mistook him for being unsociable since he would at times carry on reading during family meetings, totally oblivious of the activities that were taking place around him. His strange compulsion to read was contagious and I took up the habit of reading mostly as a result of his influence.
While I am nowhere near being the compulsive reader that Uncle Jack was, I have over the years developed a taste for a wide variety of books. I credit my love for reading almost entirely to the influence of my Uncle Jack.
It has been almost five years since I last saw my uncle Jack and while my frequent inquiries as to his whereabouts from my parents have not yielded any results, I believe that he is fairing well wherever he is. I have no doubts that wherever he made his new home, Jack continues to be an influential figure to some other persons just as he was to me.
My only regret with regard to Uncle Jack is that I did not get the chance to tell him how important a person he was and what a great role model he was to me. Hopefully, I will also get to be as big an influence in somebody’s life when I am older.