I am grateful for “Uncle Dick”. I find myself, this morning as I sit at my desk, thinking about those people who helped shape my character when I was growing up. Not the idols whose pictures I taped to my bedroom walls. Not the athletes who inspired me to run faster and jump higher. Not the movie stars whose imaginary characters made me swoon, but those men and women who led by example, who quietly went about their day-to-day lives, their decency and integrity leaving a swath of goodness for those of us coming behind to follow.
Dick Lyons was one of those leaders, and I have no doubt he left an indelible mark on everyone he met. I was little when I came to know “Uncle Dick”, riding in the trailer behind his snow machine on what seemed like a very long winter trail to the Kennett’s cabin. He tucked us into the trailer, ensuring we were safe and warm, always with an air of this is going to be fun, as he ferried load after load of children to the cabin. A skating rink awaited us, a fire to keep warm beside, and laughter, lots and lots of laughter.
One Christmas Eve my family was invited to the Lyons’ home to enjoy a Christmas pageant put on by Kelly and Sue and the “Stewart Boys”. I don’t remember the content of that pageant, but I do remember the joy on Uncle Dick’s face, as he watched his precious girls and nephews perform, on their make-shift stage, the rest of us sitting in our pretend theatre seating, complete with popcorn. He applauded with sincere pride and that look on his face lingers with me still.
I was one of the fortunate who got dragged on an inner tube behind Dick’s boat, who got to eat wieners cooked over a fire and eaten off a stick. I was a lucky child who got to listen to his story-telling, getting lost in the sound of his voice and thinking he must have known every single person that ever lived in Fort Frances.
I was thinking of words that describe Dick and kindness tops the list, a kindness that treated everyone the same, a welcoming curiousity that made each of us feel seen and heard. Dick had the most wonderful laugh, one that if you heard you couldn’t help but join in, a laugh that chased away anything that might make us sad. Dick was grateful, found gratitude in every situation. He lived his life with humble eagerness and enthusiasm. He welcomed my daughters into his world, let them call him Uncle Dick, tied their shoes, lifted them to safety, bent down to ask them their stories.
What do each of us leave behind, what will our legacy be? If we could come but even half way to the man Dick Lyons was, then we will have left the world in good shape. Oh, how I wish I could re-visit those Sunday afternoons, could time travel to when our families shared time together. I would tell Uncle Dick how very glad I was to soak up his gentle kindness and how blessed I was to borrow him and pretend I was his real family. But I think he knows, and I think he is glad for it.