The television set was only a few feet away and my older brother and I crowded around it with our eyes glued to every move. When the “Bam!” or “Pow” would appear on the screen as Batman and his faithful sidekick Robin fought the never ending battle against evil, my brother and I would both jerk back a little from the screen, as if the action were going to somehow come into the living room of my grandparents otherwise sedate home. Behind us, my Uncle Rodger, a single man who never had kids of his own, would be chuckling at our reactions, somehow happy at what he had invited us to watch. And meanwhile, viewers, my grandma would be shaking her head in something of a disapproving manner. (Yes, he also made sure we saw The Lone Ranger and Superman.) It was this same Uncle, my mom’s younger brother, who would take my brothers and me to see our very first science fiction movie in the summer of 1977 – Star Wars.
There is a lot I remember about my mom’s younger brother, a man who passed away entirely too early about three years ago. Some of it was a bit quirky – he never really knew what to buy his nephews for Christmas and some of the gifts were interesting to say the least. Some of it was also useful in a “that kind of knowledge doesn’t always get passed on” kind of way. He taught me how to “score” a baseball game as I watched it or listened to it on the radio. This latter gift would come in quite handy as my non-athletic high school self would be the statistician for several sports, allowing me at least some exposure to people who would have otherwise ignored me. I gained a sense of serving and maybe even a little pride as the star of the basketball team would ask me what his shooting percentage was for the game.
Yes, there is a lot I remember about my Uncle, but perhaps the most formational thing he did for me was give me a love for super-heroes and the science fiction that was behind and in those stories. (It took me a while to discover it, but I also learned to appreciate that many of these works had very profound theological meanings in them as well.)
It was the fall of 2009, not long after my Uncle had passed away and my two youngest daughters and I were sitting in the living room watching the season finale of Season Three of Smallville on DVD. They couldn’t wait to open the box for season four and see how it all ended and they were equally excited to “get caught up” so we could watch the current season we had recorded. The DVD’s we were watching were part of what my Uncle had left behind and my mother had passed on to me. This past spring my youngest daughter, who can sometimes be spotted sporting “Superman Chucks,” couldn’t wait for the release of The Avengers and both girls were excited to see The Dark Knight Rises this summer. (I think only the oldest has seen it so far…guess that means I get another trip to the theater!)
As we come up on the anniversary of his death, I just wanted to say “Thanks, Uncle Rodger.” Your love of science fiction and super-heroes lives on in the family. As far as I am concerned that is a great thing. Who can argue with that when one of the best lines in the entire Dark Knight movie (maybe even the entire epic trilogy) is one that is spoken by The Batman:
“A hero can be anyone – even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulder to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”