Uncle Art was my grandfather's younger brother. He was born 6th in a family consisting of my paternal great-grandparents and their nine children, six boys and three girls. The challenges of being born on a mid-Michigan farm in the early 1900's hardly seemed to phase the man. He never married. He worked as a farmer and as an auto factory worker. Uncle Art died around the age of seventy. He's the only one of my great uncles that I ever remember hearing my family talk about. I'm not even sure if my memory of what he looked like is from really meeting him ( which I must have as a very young child ) or from one of those million family photos I've poured over at my grandma's kitchen table. What I do know is that Uncle Art spoke to me in a way that none of my other relatives did.
Uncle Art spoke to me through stories that others told about him, through comments made by relatives like, " Oh, that Arthur! " and through an underlying intuition that we were kindred spirits, non-conformists, a wee bit eccentric, birds of a different feather, so to speak. Although the only photo I may have ever seen of him would have been black and white, in my mind he exuded vibrant colors, not only in his wardrobe but in his speech and mannerisms as well. It was said that no matter what, Uncle Art always seemed happy and he loved to talk (something else we have in common). Tall tales were his specialty. Whatever story the fella before him had told, Uncle Art's story was always bigger or better or brighter or just more darn fun to believe. " The best is none too good for Arthur" was a phrase he used on a regular basis. My grandma tells of a day on the old farm when my father was just a boy. Uncle Art strutted in the front door of the farmhouse unannounced and unexpected with a huge cigar stuck between his teeth and a big old ear-to-ear smile. He was done up to the nines, all dressed in plaid. His derby hat was made from one pattern of plaid, his suitcoat from a different pattern and his pants from yet another. The entire family sat with eyes and mouths wide open, speechless.
Yup, Uncle Art had a strange effect on people. A few months ago I was out hiking and managed to get some dirt in the ankle of my sock. After I had removed the dirt by rolling my socks down over the top of my boots, I decided to leave them there. The air felt so nice and cool on my sweaty ankles. An hour or so later I sat down to take in the view and when I reached down to grab a water bottle from my pack, it was like someone had put a spotlight on my ankles. All of my attention was drawn to the weirdness, the awkwardness of what I was seeing. Nobody wears their socks like that! Nobody but me........ and Uncle Art! His habit of rolling his socks down to his boottops drove my relatives crazy for years. I laughed and sputtered and giggled with myself over this newfound realization. I could drive people crazy too! I could dress the way I liked, live the way I liked and laugh at whatever the hell I wanted to laugh at and be just as happy as Uncle Art.
Arthur Leo Foor wasn't just Art. He was my Uncle Art! In life and in death, a colorful example of oh, so much more.
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