Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Uncle, A Man, A Life

Uncle Paul by mdt1960
Uncle Paul, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
I’m not one to claim favorites when it comes to family members, but I’ll say here that Uncle Paul was indeed a favorite when it comes to the extended family. And for him to be a favorite wasn’t a matter of simple math. Paul Kline was “Number Six” in the long line of Kline children (14 in all) who came from the marriage of Thomas and Stella Kline—my grandparents. I never took a survey amongst my fellow cousins, but I suspect if any of them spent a significant amount of time with him, he would be a favorite of theirs as well.

Born one day and thirty-three years before me, Uncle Paul and I occasionally shared informal birthday celebrations if I was in Akron during July.

As a child, I first knew Uncle Paul as “Uncle Chicky;” a nickname from his childhood. Many of the Kline siblings were given such nicknames from their father, Tom: Fred was called “Whitey,” Russell was known as “Teddy,” and even my mom was sometimes referred to as “Mamie.” Related to the giving of nicknames, Paul was originally named “Charles Monroe” at birth, but the birth certificate materialized with Paul J.; the J standing for Junior. Likewise, Uncle Fred was originally named Walter Sidney but somehow turned up as Fred Julius on the birth certificate.

During my early years, I was always a bit leery and thus somewhat fearful of Uncle Chick due to the roughhouse and boisterous air that seemed to surround him. I remember a fishing trip to Canada that included him and other Kline families; and even though each family had their own cabin, we always knew when Uncle Chick woke up with his signature yawn that was likely heard from the other side of the river. As I grew older and realized that the only pain he would ever inflict on me was a good charlie-horse in the shoulder, I saw through his gruff exterior and discovered a soft-hearted man who epitomized the word “serve.”

It has taken me years to pin down what was so special about Uncle Paul, but it finally came to me early in 2011 when I was unexpectedly home for my Uncle Jim’s funeral. You see, Uncle Jim was my father’s brother—a Tyree, while Uncle Paul was my mom’s brother—a Kline. Yet there was Uncle Paul sitting next to my mom and dad on that sad day during the funeral. I don’t know if he was there for my mother, who was there for my father, or if he was simply there for his brother-in-law. Regardless, there was no other Kline in attendance, nor were they expected. Yet, Paul J. Kline was there. That was the measure of this man that finally spoke to me. Perhaps it’s not that noteworthy, but for whatever the case, something happen inside of me when I saw him come through the doors at Uncle Jim’s funeral. That one show of unexpected kindness will forever stay with me.

The few lines of his obituary that were printed in the Akron Beacon Journal said much about the character of Paul Kline.

Paul J. Kline born July 12, 1927 passed away December 30, 2011 with his family at his side. Employed as a lineman/trouble shooter with Ohio Edison for over 40 years, he enjoyed his retirement taking care of his wife, cooking awesome meals for his family, and cultivating his garden.

He was an avid fisherman, handyman and chauffeur to anyone who needed him. Strong, wise, honest, ornery and always smiling—with a twinkle in his eyes…

I can testify as much as anyone that “ornery” he was, but always in a humorous way while that “twinkle in his eyes” was honest-to-God; and unlike a faint and distant star, was as bright and constant as the sun on a cloudless summer day.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully remembered and related. I suppose "Chicky" would approve....with a wry smile and a twinkle in his eye.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done MT.