Gary Randall Tackett

I have so many great memories of my Uncle Randy! They are tumbling over each other trying to get out so the world can know what a wonderful man he was. He was a veritable giant in a family of short to average-height people. When I was a little girl, his size and his habit of tickling me any time he could catch me put terror in my heart whenever I saw him. As I grew older, though, I came to realize that he was just a great big teddy bear, and who doesn’t love great big teddy bears?

He was very intelligent and could talk all day long on any number of subjects, two of his favorites being cars and the Bible. One thing he didn’t talk about was Vietnam. For a sensitive person as Randy was, that topic was just too painful. He would rather tell jokes, which he did often, with a mischievous, yet kind, smile that was contagious. My mom loved telling me stories about the pranks he would play on her and their younger sister when he was young.

Another favorite topic of his was matchmaking. Even when he was sick in the hospital, barely able to talk, he would start up about some man he wanted to fix me up with, usually someone from his church. Silly uncle! I believe he truly wanted me to be happy and thought that would be the answer.

During the past several years, there have been many times when Randy was in the hospital either here in Bristol or at the VA in Johnson City. Since the rest of the family lives at least two hours away, I was often the only one who was able to visit him. I would go see him as much as I could so he wouldn’t be alone and would know how much his family loved him. We became very close.

Earlier this year, when he was in the VA hospital, Sam and I went to visit him one evening. They had given him some pain meds a little while before we got there, so he wasn’t very responsive. When I asked him questions, he would nod or shake his head a little or grunt out an incoherent response. Finally, when I told him that Sam and I were going to leave, his eyes popped wide open, he straightened up a little in the bed, and said very plainly and sternly, “OH, NO YOU’RE NOT!” I had to laugh! I told him if he wanted us to stay a while longer, he needed to talk to us. He started rambling something we couldn’t understand, but he was intent on keeping us there as long as he could.

One of my happiest memories of Randy is seeing him with his two little granddaughters at my Aunt Kitty’s wedding last September. The look of pride shining in his eyes was unmistakable and endearing. By focusing on that memory, hopefully the image of hospital beds, tubes, and medical machines will fade from my mind.

A little before midnight last night, Uncle Randy was reunited with his mom and dad, and his brother and sister (my Granny, Pawpaw, Uncle Curt, and Mama). I know it was a wonderful reunion, and I’m more than a little jealous. I love them all and look forward to the day when I, too, will be with them again.

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