When I was a little girl, my siblings and I were sometimes watched by my Mom’s baby brothers.
We knew them as “Bobby and Joey”. They were cool, young, fun, hip, interesting. We had a great time when they were in charge.
Uncle Joey was the one with the crazy wit; he often made jokes that I couldn’t totally understand, but I knew they were hilarious. He was all about puns and word play. I learned to appreciate the nuances of language from him. I learned to really love word games from Uncle Joey. He taught me to play “Tinky Pinky”, a game that I still play with my students, some 50 years after he taught it to me.
But Uncle Bobby was the Uncle with the gentle soul. He was funny, smart, kind, loving. He was the young Uncle who wanted desperately to be a doctor. He was determined to learn about the body, about medicine, about healing. He was the Uncle who taught me that you have to keep trying, keep pushing, keep digging if you really want to achieve your dreams.
When I was nine years old, and nearly desperate for a dog of my own, Bobby was the Uncle who came to my house with a tiny brown puppy, saved from a medical lab. I immediately fell in love with her, and named her “Coco”. She was my first “baby”, my first responsibility, my first real love. I will always associate my Uncle Bobby with my little dog.
As I grew up, Uncle Bobby remained the Uncle with the incredible sense of humor, the amazing work ethic, the inspiring love of family. He became a doctor, a surgeon, and a father of eight. His children, my cousins, are uniformly beautiful, charming, kind, thoughtful and loving.
I remember one spring day, when my family was gathered to celebrate the lives of my grandparents. We all stood around, and listened as the Uncles, Roy, Joe and Bobby, shared memories of their parents. Uncle Bobby raised a hand, as if holding a glass of wine, and said, “Sempre la Famiglia”. The family forever.
My children and my nieces and nephews took those words to heart. They wear them now as tattoos, a pledge to always remember the bonds of love that make up a family.
Now my funny, loving, smart Uncle Bobby is battling against the ravages of ALS. I find it amazing, but not at all surprising, that the infectious “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” is happening during his struggle.
Bob, Dr. Bob, would be just the right person to exemplify the need for more research, and for a cure. My clever, dextrous, surgically skilled Uncle can show us what is lost when this terrible disease strikes.
Like about a million other people out there, I took the “Ice Bucket Challenge”. I decided to get silly with it, and reached into a giant rubbermaid tub to pull out a small martini shaker of ice water. And then I made a contribution to ALS research.
I love this challenge. I love that it is bringing awareness to such an awful disease.
Mostly, though, I love that I had a chance to celebrate the generous, gentle, humorous life of my wonderful Uncle Bobby.
Sempre La Famiglia.