Fifty and a Conversation with Uncle Ron About it

I've been struggling with how to write about a number...fifty.  As in a new racing age group and (gulp) my age on Saturday.  I think there must be some mistake, but I also know I lived in the sixties so it must be true.

I had the opportunity to spend a couple hours with someone last  night and felt the conversation was worth saving and sharing.  Uncle Ron is my mother's brother and Dad to three cousins who have been a huge part of my life; Chris, Craig and Dan.  Growing up, they lived in Pleasanton, California and we lived in Denver, Colorado.  They were all around the same age as myself and my siblings and we had many a trip back and forth.  We formed a bond that was stronger than cousins...more like brothers and sisters.  Lot's of summer vacations, time with grandparents and as we got older; weddings, divorces, births, graduations, and the occasional funeral.

We would joke with each other and living in Broncos and Raiders territory would provide plenty of material--in the 70's when the Broncos finally beat Raider Nation, we sent a "crying towel" that was literally a sheet with all sorts of "rubbing it in your face" comments.  Beneath the barbs was respect and love as we have shared each other's lives.

Ron before I combed his hair.  He told me that felt good.
Uncle Ron had a stroke two weeks ago which paralyzed his left side.  Tough for any man, but especially tough for an ex-Navy guy who is full of pride and has too many years left to give.  As ironic luck would have it, I had a trip to the Bay Area in California which was nearby his rehabilitation hospital in Livermore, CA.  I skipped dinner and my plans for speed work and sent my rental car Northeast to visit with my uncle.

I skipped pass the hospital security window in the lobby and head to the third floor to find his room and found him sleeping peacefully in his hospital bed.  Daily reports from my cousin Craig have shared details of his stroke and recovery.  The stroke itself as Ron would tell me from his bed happened at two in the morning and struck the stem of the brain and impacted his whole left side.  A long recovery and road ahead.

I sat with him for awhile as I didn't want to disturb him and after stealing a chair from another room, I sat next to him and gently shook his good hand to wake him up.  I spoke to my Mom earlier and she told me to make sure I woke him if he was sleeping to let him know his nephew paid a visit.  As I slowly shook his hand, his eyes slowly opened and he quietly muttered the word, "fifty."  Bad news for me, good news that I'm in a new age group, but even better news that he knew who I was and that I had a big birthday on Saturday.

We talked off and on for close to two hours.  There were no tears, and I was optimistic that he looked quite good considering what he'd gone through the last couple of weeks.  He'd lost twenty pounds and needed to lose it, but this was a crappy way to lose weight.  He was still on a feeding tube and he talked about pot roast, tapioca pudding, and really wanting a drink of water.  None of that was allowed as part of his physical therapy was re-learning how to swallow.

Part of the way through our conversation, his nurse came in to check his feed tube and hook up another "feed bag" to him which looked like Kahlua.  We joked about Kahlua and the times that the family would smuggle cheap versions of the liqueur from Tijuana when we visited his sister's (Aunt Marge's) beach house in nearby Rosarito Beach, Mexico.  Ron told the story about the time he was duped into buying a case of Corona mini bottles and the border patrol informed him he essentially paid the same as he would in the U.S.

Ron was quite alert asking why I was in California and where I was staying.  He talked about where his home was in Pleasanton (seven miles due West) and even pointed in the right direction.  His mind was sharp, but his body will need a lot of rehabilitation.

Along with the Kahlua and pot roast discussion, there was some typical complaints about hospital food.

We talked about his boys (my cousins,) and his grand kids.  His local son Craig has been diligently looking after his Dad.  He was at his son's Travis' baseball practice.  I asked Ron if he'd seen any games and he said "all of them."  #proudgrandpa

Like my conversations with my grandpa (Pop, his Dad,) we had some "off color" conversation as we'd often do over the years.  Nothing disrespectful, but akin to the banter between Clint Eastwood and his bartender in the movie "Gran Torino."  Clint (Walt Kowalski) and the barber would insult each other with off color comments, but there was a tone of love and respect underneath.  I won't embarrass the family, but we had some inappropriate laughs that I'll share offline with my cousins.  Something to do with nurses (sorry Kim...sister who's a nurse.)

I finally stopped talking when I felt guilty that he was exhausted and needed the sleep.  What seemed like trivial conversation to most was encouraging, uplifting and a great birthday present from Uncle Ron.  "Fifty."


  1. I am sitting at my computer reading your latest blog with tears running down my cheeks. I am so very happy & proud that you took the time (not really surprised) to visit my only brother Ron. You really hit the nail on the head describing the love all the cousins have for each other. Thank you so much Ty for making your mama proud of you even today after 50yrs.

  2. Saw your Mom today for a couple of minutes. She told me to be sure to read about your visit with your Uncle Ron. This is a mighty powerful message.

  3. Dear Ty,
    Thank you so much for your wonderful letter about Ron he is a dear friend Fred & myself. I know your mom was so happy that you saw him.I am going to see him this week. Oh and happy 50th trust me the best has yet to come.
    Love Linda Miller & Fred Parsen


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