Uncle Jody always seemed to understand the heart of his small niece.
He would stoop down--somehow folding his long, lanky body into a comfortable crouch, easily balancing back upon the heel of his pointed cowboy boots--to look directly into my face.
His clear blue eyes would beam and his craggy face would light up, as he would listen to that small girl I once was. I can still hear his easy laughter. How I loved my Uncle Jody. I knew I was special in his eyes.
He wrote beautiful poetry and loved the work of Robert W. Service, who wrote Dangerous Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee. I can still hear his voice, a delightful cross between soft snow and rough gravel as he would read those wonderful poetic stories.
I remember Thanksgivings where Dad and Uncle Jody, along with Mom, all my cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles would fill an entire house with shouts of laughter, loud debate, good food and fun. I would go upstairs, lay my ear against the floor and listen to the rumble. One of my favorite memories was when Dad and Uncle Joe ate an entire bottle of pickles so hot their eyes were streaming with tears. One could almost see the smoke rolling from their ears.
I miss him. I remember what Uncle Jody whispered, after hearing my daughters and I sing Amazing Grace in three-part harmony. "I'm not so far away from God as they think," he confided with a mischievous twinkle in those clear blue eyes awash with bright tears.
I am confident I will see our beloved Cowboy Poet again--his worn Stetson hat slung low over his face, his blue eyes sparkling, his beautiful crinkled features creased into a big happy smile.
All Uncle Jody's brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews loved him with a great love--he made each of us feel special. And we were.