I remember when I was seven or eight years old, there was this telethon going on to raise money for muscular dystrophy on local TV in West Texas. Along with my two brothers and my parents, we were actually part of it, there with my cousins John and Lindsey, and my Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike.
You see, my Uncle Mike was this big, strong Italian guy, who had that unique ability to be good at just about anything he wanted to do. Also: He was a train conductor, which to childhood me, made him pretty much the baddest of all the badasses. Especially because he would let me pull the train whistle.
But my lasting memory of my Uncle Mike isn’t about him on one of those trains, or fishing, or playing catch in the yard, or shooting hoops in the driveway. It’s of him laying motionless in his bedroom with a feeding tube sticking out of him only able to communicate by blinking as my Aunt Linda went through the alphabet letter by letter.
My Uncle Mike had ALS.