Unconditional Giving ~ Uncle Van

My dad always had smelly feet! Every night when I was in high school with my younger brothers, we would enjoy an evening watching our favorite TV show, “Mash” where there would be 3 episodes all in a row. We would be very content in our own little world, myself and my two little brothers Herbie and Eric. Then quietly we would hear my father come in and rest his weary body after a long day at work standing in the factory. He was a line worker at General Motors where he helped to make American cars.

My uncle Van was with my dad when he came home this evening. My father took his usual seat in the leather recliner that had the feet pop up thing when you leaned all the way back. Mom was in the kitchen cutting up carrots for the vegetable part of dinner. We didn’t quite know what the rest would be yet. Always a surprise as to what was in the fridge. Uncle Van took a seat next to me on the couch with Herbie. Eric was on the shag green carpet on the floor in front of the TV. Then the dreaded moment when my dad took his shoes off! Whoww – the smell began with a wafting of rotten onions that took over the whole room until we either decided to open a window or inoculated ourselves with lysol spray.

On this particular day with Uncle Van here, he too noticed the wincing smells emanating the room. Instead of cringing like the rest of us in silent irritation of my father, Uncle Van decided to offer something quite odd…… “Henry”, Uncle Van said, “Would you like a foot massage?” All us kids just looked at each other in our own eye language and asked, is he crazy?! To our surprise my father said “yeah, sure”

Uncle Van proceeded with precision as he filled a short rimmed white basin with warm soapy water. Dad brought his chair upright and splashed his feet into the warm water basin. The green tendrils of the carpet absorbed the extra water that went around the basin. Uncle Van got down on his knees with his white hair falling in his face and began to massage my dads feet, toe by toe, ankle to sole, all the muscles on the bottoms of dad’s feet. We all watched as my fathers head began to slowly bend forward until his chin had touched his chest. He had fallen asleep.

Uncle Van didn’t stop massaging even though dad was asleep. I wondered why because my dad probably wouldn’t notice if he stopped. I am not religious but, I remembered a story where Jesus washed all the apostles feet before they had the last supper with him. Even though I was 16 at the time, I somehow felt something important was happening. Something about humbleness that no one had ever told me about, where a human being completely gives unconditionally to another expecting nothing in return. I don’t think my father will ever know that Uncle Van was tending to his feet for over an hour as he had fallen asleep after the first 15 mins.

Three months later Uncle Van was swimming in lake Ontario. He went way out into the lake…..to far out. He never came back. I will never forget his complete selfless giving of his loving hands to my father.