THE SONIC BOOMER
My Uncle Jack has died, and that means our family has lost its primary source of shock and awe.
Uncle Jack, the fifth of five brothers, lived in the shadow of the others and tried — all his life — to distinguish himself. This is a common problem for the youngest sibling. Mom and dad have pretty much seen it all by the time this baby makes his appearance.
In Jack’s case, there was Bob to contend with — the eldest, the one who never let him forget who was born first (as opposed to “the afterthought”). There was Jim — the war hero with a couple of Purple Hearts and a Silver Star to prove it. There was Emmett (my father) — whom grandma never failed to call her “favorite.” And there was Harry — who was hit by a truck and died at age 5, instantly awarding him angel status. By the time Jack showed up, he truly was a possible afterthought.
As a child, he was difficult. As a teen, even more so. He watched with admiration as, one by one, his brothers joined the Marine Corps and marched off to battle Hitler in World War II. By the time he was old enough to enlist, it was the Korean War. A different story. To make matters worse, his surviving three brothers were tall — six foot plus. But when Jack applied for a job as a police officer, he had to go to a professional stretcher to get him tall enough to meet the height requirement. He ended up as a motorcycle cop, then a motorcycle racer, then a motorcycle shop owner.
Motorcycles were his passion, as were fast cars and foreign women. He started out married to an American, then progressed through Thailand and Mexico. He fathered six children (that we know of), all of whom were a joy to him. He remained friends with all his ex-wives.
Jack was attractive to women because he was wild but not a “bad boy.” He was exciting. He told great stories. He never drank or smoked. He read the Bible and had high moral standards. The world simply moved too slowly for him, and he spent his life trying to speed things up.
Men loved him, too, because all his stories were true. He’d traveled the world. He’d worked on the bikes of the Hell’s Angels. He knew strange foreign customs. He used “colorful” language. My own brothers adored him, which made my mother nervous. “And your father had to beat him up that one time,” she said. “When dad and I first got together, Jack said something rude to me, and daddy hauled him out in the street and let him have it. Jack treated me with great respect after that.”
So he was teachable. An avid reader, he was also learned. But it turns out all the knowledge in the world can’t save you forever. He succumbed last Thursday, on his first wife’s birthday. Her happy birthdays will forevermore include a sad memory of Jack. So he’s still causing trouble.
True to form.