Lessons from my Uncle Joe

A couple months ago my uncle passed away from a sudden heart attack. Regrettably, I hadn’t seen him or talked to him since Christmas last year. Not surprisingly, his death hit the entire Johnston family incredibly hard.

As soon as I heard the news, I started thinking of what a wonderful uncle he had been. Memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time came flooding back.  I began to reflect on how much he, and the entire Johnston family, helped shape me as an adult; much more of an influence than I had realized.  The following are some of my memories and lessons I learned from my Uncle Joe.

When I was in my teens, my cousin had a small dirt bike, and Joe let my brother and I give it a try. It was the first time I’d ever been on a motorcycle. On my first go, I rode it around his yard in small circles. After I got the hang of the basics, I did a lap around the backyard; all by  myself. During that lap I dumped the bike and tore up his backyard by trying to pull the bike up while continuing to hold down the throttle (rookie mistake). The bike did a couple spins in the yard with me running next to it, tearing up the grass and leaving a big circular patch of dirt. The patience and kindness Joe showed me after I came back around to the front yard (with clumps of dirt and grass littered on the handlebars of the bike and embarrassment on my face) was something I always kept with me. I expected him to be upset about potentially damaging the bike and messing up his yard. He just teased me a bit (in typical Joe fashion), but was ultimately concerned that I hadn’t been hurt.  Still, I haven’t been fond of motorbikes since.

Continue reading