Some years back, I was visiting a married couple I'd been friends with for years. Their first child, a daughter, was about two or three. I've always enjoyed little kids and will play with 'em at the drop of a hat, and that night was no different. Alleah and I were getting along famously - hide and seek, playing dead, peekabo and so on. Time wore on, and it was time for me to leave.
This upset Alleah greatly. She started crying, and said: "Don't go, Uncle Jeff!"
This even shocked her parents. She had never called anyone that before, and they had no idea she understood what it meant. But, I tell you what, it meant I was her Uncle from then on. How could I refuse that task? We had a sort of a bond from then on.
I kept up with her as she grew up, and as we got older, I'd kid her about what she'd said. She never backed away. I'd encourage her and tried to give sage advice when I felt it was necessary. It really wasn't - her parents did a wonderful job of raising her without my input!
She was a cutie as a little girl, and as a teenager, she was turning into a very beautiful woman. She also developed a very strong personality - she had no fear of arguing a point, plus she was logical and consistent in her beliefs. As a former debater, I was extremely proud of her for the way she self organized and cut right to the heart of issues.
She was, and still is, a fierce defender of her family and friends. Woe be unto anyone who crossed her younger brother, for instance. Loyalty and honor mean something to this young lady.
She was very active in high school - athletics, cheerleading and so on. Until her wreck. She was coming home on a back road that has a wicked set of ninety degree turns, and she found the first one about O dark thirty one night, and failed to negotiate the turn. It's been a long time ago, and I'm murky on the specific details, but I'm thinking she was tossed from the car, and missing one or both shoes, and of course no phone or flashlight available. She had to walk to the nearest farmhouse, and I'm thinking there were two - one she could reach going south, the other north - and maybe she even had to go to one first and no one was there. So she had to walk back past the wreck. She was also suffering from a broken vertebrae in her neck, if I recall correctly. At any rate, she did manage to find someone and wake them up so she could get some help.
I made a point to stop in and see her after that - she was lying on her parents' couch. Obviously, she was in pain, but I could see that physical pain was only part of what she was feeling. Kids live in an egocentric world where they're gonna live forever. Alleah just found out that frankly, the universe didn't give a damn about her. That's a pretty big shock for a young teenager, and it shone through her eyes plain as day. Like it or not, she did a lot of growing up right then and there. The injury prevented her from any more high school athletics or cheerleading, but she picked up on the lesson of the value of life tuit suite. Sharp kid, that.
Did I say she was good looking? Actually, she is flippin' hawt! She worked part time for a car dealership where I was employed, so I got to see her frequently then. She was walking out to her car, leaving, one day and a whole passel of bored, horny young salesmen were watching her butt. And saying shit. Now, I appreciated the geometry and artistry of the wiggle in her walk, but dammit, she was my niece! I chewed some ass that day. They could look, but there had better be no touching, or they'd have to come through me. I was surprised at my reaction, actually.
She has been a success in school as well. Double major in college, and graduate school after. Good job, too. Like I said, she has a head on her shoulders, and knows how to use it.
Remember how I said she was a fierce defender of her family? Well, when ol' Uncle Jeffro had a problem, she jumped right in with both feet to help her hopeless ol' Unka out. She was a big donor for one of the savings accounts (her dad set one of them up), giving up the money she was saving for a new car. Damnit, girl!
She was also tireless working Facebook and helping with some other fundraising efforts. Have y'all ever heard of flocking with yard flamingos for fundraising? She helped start some of that - there were plenty of other people who got that going and worked on it, but she was right in there. I also understand there is a Pampered Chef party that I will be the "hostess" for, so I can get some free stuff. A lot of people have done a lot of work for all those efforts, but Alleah has been right in the middle of it all.
Which is kinda hard to see how she has had the time, considering how busy she's been. Tomorrow, my niece is getting married in Wichita. Hell of a good guy, too. So, Uncle Jeff and his Cuzzin Tom are headed to the Air Capital to see her off on a new adventure. She's had to take instruction in the Catholic faith. Heh.
I got her a St. Jude* medal on a rosary.
I wish her and her guy nothing but the best, and if there is ever anything I can do, I'm there!
*Patron Saint of Lost Causes