This picture captures the essence of Uncle David, a smile that emanated from his heart to his face and filled the room with kindness and love.
I was very fortunate to have grown up in the Reed family neighborhood with Uncle David being one of the many I loved living just steps away. We all looked up to him in so many ways (literally and figuratively). Stories of his war times, the work ethic that he demonstrated every day, his loyalty and love for family, the way he maintained his yellow tractor (I think that epic lawn machine might still be running!)...the list could go on and on. With their constant love and support of Gram Reed, he and my grandfather showed all of us the way life should be, the way family should be. Like my parents and grandparents, Uncle David and his wife Aunt Joan shared a love story and a marriage that survived the test of time, they were true partners for life. Rare in today’s world and yet another wonderful example that Uncle David demonstrated for all of us.
Uncle David built a swing for Julie and Marybeth that was the envy of the neighborhood, it hung from an old elm tree in their yard and was just wide enough to hold two lucky kids. I bet Aunt Joan liked it as well, because instead of being an eyesore like many kid items, it just added to the beauty of the gorgeous yard that was so much of part of the family that she and Uncle David built. Like Uncle David, it didn’t need neon colors or elaborate presentation, it was just by its nature beautiful and welcoming.
Uncle David’s smile and kind face were always present, even when the antics of "us kids" may have been a bit much. Back about 45 years ago, that yellow tractor was a state of the art machine and a huge kid magnet; I remember countless hours of being pulled in the makeshift trailer that he built so that we could all get a ride. He taught us all how to drive it, Marybeth and I were both flunkies, Davey was the only one who mastered this skill and eventually was unofficially certified to drive the rest of us around; only receiving further guidance from Uncle David when he attempted to transform the yellow tractor into a racecar. Davey, he could be a bit mischievous, and I must admit that I was often his partner in crime. He was especially skilled at lovingly taunting his mother. On one sunny day in July, Davey decided to enhance his mom’s car by painting racing stripes on it, I mixed the paint, witnessed the crime then stuck around to watch the inevitable fireworks that would transpire once the enhancement was discovered. As was often the case, Aunt Joan asked Uncle David to reprimand Davey… I remember to this day thinking that his words were harsh, but somehow Uncle David could not hide the understanding and kindness that showed on his face.
Uncle David owned a wonderful cottage on Knickerbocker Lake, it shared a yard with a cottage owned by his beloved cousin Chris Sproul. As was his nature, whatever Uncle David had was shared with family, and many of us Reed kids learned to swim and developed a lifelong appreciation for the lakes of Maine right there at his small piece of Maine nirvana. A day at that cottage was the highpoint of my summers as a child; on one of these more memorable days I probably should have stayed home. I ignored feeling sick and spent hours in the wonderful water, picnicking with Marybeth on our yacht (a blowup boat from the Mammoth Mart) and trying to keep up with Davey and the Sproul kids who were much stronger swimmers than me. This day was going to culminate with a sleepover and more water fun in the morning, but about an hour after dinner Uncle David looked at me and said “I better take you home”. He opened the car door for me, instead of getting in the car, I turned to him and proceeded to throw up all over him…he was likely horrified, but all I remember is the kindness on his face as he recommended that we wait a bit before getting in the car to see if “more” was coming.
The Reed family neighborhood remained for many years beyond our childhoods; when I brought my sons Ben and John to visit my parents, we took a few steps over to Uncle David’s house for more family time. Uncle David professed to enjoying time with the “boys”, and then proceeded to show me many many pictures of the four lights in his life: Katie, Chrissy, Becca and Lauren. I listened as he described how each granddaughter was amazing, his face lighting up more and more as he talked. At this point in his life, he had lost his lifelong partner Aunt Joan, yet somehow he found the strength to go on and fill the void in his heart with love for his granddaughters. As so many times before, he taught thru example that life was to be embraced and cherished.
I was further enlightened on the strength of my Uncle David and how the relationships of the Reed men worked during hospice with my dad. Dad was at my house and very sick, finding his path to leave this world with dignity but perhaps hesitant to do so in the presence of his little girl. Dad was a man of few words, I was closest to him and assumed that I would be the one he needed with him during his final moments; I was wrong. Uncle David had some health issues of his own at this time, but that did not stop him from making the trip to my home to visit with my dad. With Uncle David holding his hand, dad finally found the strength to let go. Uncle David explained this to me later “For men like your dad, weakness and letting go is shared only with other men”. Once again, I was inspired by Uncle David on the way life should be.
As I remember Uncle David and look at this picture, I am saddened that our family and the world has lost a truly wonderful man. Yet, as this picture and our memories recall, his light and love were strong, this cannot be extinguished by anything, not even death. He will live on in our memories and our endeavors to follow the trail that he blazed and the examples that he set.
Sunday June 10, 2018 at 12:45 am