Happy Birthday and R.I.P, Uncle Al.
My uncle was a gorgeous Italian man, with sandy blonde hair, crystal blue eyes and olive skin. He loved to smoke joints, drink tall cans of Schlitz, and dress in nothing but short cut-off Levi’s. Like most of the men in our Tosti family, he was not only charming and good looking, but he was a story teller. He loved to tell us girls ghosts stories in the backyard or in our rooms before bedtime.
He loved and looked up to my dad, probably more than anyone else. They eventually both got to work together as roadies for different bands in the 70’s. My Uncle Al once had to pull Bob Dylan out of a tree at a party because he was so high, amongst many other stories they had.
He eventually joined the Vietnam War, despite being a hippie. My father tried to go as well but couldn’t because he was blind in one eye. As my father continued to party and tour with bands (he was a roadie), my uncle fought for his life and our freedom. He was a Grunt. Look that up. It’s the hardest job there is. My Nana would send him packages of socks because his feet would peel away layers at a time from walking around in the rice paddies. Socks were more precious than cigarettes then.
My Uncle Al met a little girl out in Vietnam that he wanted to bring home, but couldn’t. He didn’t like having to fight or be out there. He didn’t share many of his stories from there. But, he did share about the little girl and the kitten he found.
His platoon was eventually taken away like many were. He was the only survivor. He came home physically, but the war had settled deeply in his bones and he would never be the same.
We lost my Uncle shortly after Christmas before his 40th birthday. My Nana, Aunt Rose, Uncle Al and our German Shepard Tasha made one last trip out to Arizona to see us during Christmas. After coming home, my older brother visited my Nana and decided to play some cards with Uncle Al. (We’re Italian. We always play cards.) As they sat on the bed, laying down cards, my Uncle slowly fell to the side of the bed. He passed the next day or two in the hospital after my father went to see him.
I loved my Uncle Al, but was way too young to understand the extremities surrounding him and his life and those who were affected by them. My father and his daughter still mourn for him. I miss him too.
Today, I light a candle, celebrate the life of and dedicate my thoughts to the loud, loud man I got to call Uncle Al. I hope your next life is a happy and light one