Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What It Means To Be An Uncle... By Billy Hopkins (my brother!)

Yesterday, this was the speech my brother gave in front of 500 plus people.  At my Uncles funeral mass...

I just thought he did such an amazing job, I had to share!

What it means to be an Uncle?

I want to say thank you to my Aunt Mary Patrice, and my cousins Mara and Kit for giving me the chance to come up here and share with you what my uncle meant to me growing up and what he means to me today.

Two years ago I became an uncle myself to twin boys, Matthew and Lleyton, whom many of you have had the chance of babysitting over the past month (you are the brave ones in the crowd).  I will never forget the phone call I got from my sister telling me that she was pregnant with twin boys. I remember thinking back and saying to myself, “Gosh Billy, what in the heck do you know about being an uncle; you can’t even feed a goldfish let alone be a good example to two little boys.” So over the next few days/weeks I sat there and pondered my future. I kept repeating to myself the same thought, “If you can be half of what your Uncle Peter is to you, you will have exceeded all expectations for these two boys.”

For those of you who don’t know me, my uncle and I had a very special and unique relationship. He was a friend, a mentor and in some ways like that cool older brother everyone always wanted. As I looked back on the experiences with my uncle it was immediately clear to me the lessons he gifted me that I would hopefully be able to pass on to my nephews:

1. What it’s like to drive at 100 mph and get pulled over and tell the Oklahoma State Trooper, “I am sorry I was speeding but my nephew is sick—he’s eaten the entire box of licorice and I am racing to get him back to his parents in St. Louis.” This lesson was speeding, when accompanied by a little white lie is okay – as long as you’re wearing your seat belt.  As Uncle Peter always said.
2. The importance of learning how to fish. Once, on a family trip to Texas, my coke-bottle-thick glasses were so fogged from the humidity that my 5 year old self slipped between the docks at a marina.  Thanks to Uncle Peter’s fishing skills and quick thinking, he pulled from the murky-moss infested waters before too much damage was done (my sister still debates the level of damage here).
3. How to keep your cool and not worry about being humiliated when your young nephew runs out of the bathroom with his swim trunks suspiciously in a knot around his waist, leaving what we like to refer to as “a Snickers portrait” on the bathroom walls. Don’t worry Uncle Peter I wont go in to details. Thanks for cleaning up my messes and teaching me how to clean up my own.
4. The joys of driving and maneuvering a car.  Uncle Peter showed me that you should be proud of yourself for showing your young nephew how to drive a manual transmission so when you find him cruising around the neighborhood in your Jeep at age 8 that you smile to yourself that he did it (and arrived home safely) but you also make sure he realizes he can NEVER do that again – until he’s sixteen.
5. To never get bored of hearing the squeaky high pitch voice of your growing nephew constantly yelling out to you “Hey Uncle Peter! Uncle Peter! Uncle Peter!”

It’s not just all of our fun adventures that I will cherish forever. He also reminded me to always try my best; to be the best person I can be, even when it’s easier not to be; to have a sense of humor when something goes wrong; to simply give your nephew a call when you haven’t heard from him, to catch up on how he’s doing and to always offer your assistance and no matter what, to keep trying -- you’ll make mistakes but that’s okay because eventually you’ll get it right.

So Uncle Peter I am trying. I’ve made some mistakes but because of your constant reminders I know I will get it right.

Treecie, years ago you might remember this and you might not but when you and uncle peter were trying to adopt and were so worried I told you, “treecie if it doesn't work out you always have me and the girls!” Well, it worked out and we were blessed with our beautiful Mara and Kit. Today, we have to count our blessings for what Uncle Peter left us with and be the mom, aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend that my Uncle Peter wanted us to be to his incredible family.

As I start working on who my Uncle Peter expects me to be to my Aunt Mary Patrice, Mara and Kit, I’ve come up with the following:
1)   Mara & Kit  -- don't you worry about who will walk you down the aisle at flour delee. I don’t know what a flour delee is but if it includes dancing and looking good in a tux, I’m your guy.
2)   College tours. I am definitely available to help out with these. Before we get into the school stuff, I think I need to help you tour the sorority houses to make sure, you know, that they’re up to code. 
3)   And, Mara and Kit, I have one expectation of you and that’s for you to come with me when I teach Matthew and Lleyton how to fish, drive fast cars, and clean up bathrooms.

I want finish off by telling my Uncle Peter, “You’re always in my heart and you’re always on my mind and there’s no one that comes close to you or could ever take your place. I mean this from the bottom of my heart today, tomorrow and always.” As long as I can become half the man you were I know I’ll make my nephews proud.

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