When we were growing up, my Uncle Steve sent postcards to my sister, Staci and I from his extensive travels. On the back of every picture he wrote a simple message. I wish I would have kept them.
Like Buffy Davis’ Uncle Bill on that great 60’s television show Family Affair, I too had an amazing uncle. I was born his senior year in high school- my dad was six years older than him.
Uncle Steve embraced the ideals of the ‘60’s generation. He never stopped dressing like the hippy he became. After earning various degrees and PhD’s, he ended up in San Francisco, a perfect place for him teaching computer art and writing books. Luckily, Uncle Steve never stopped embracing the ideals of the flower-power generation. Not only did he look like he just stepped out of a time warp, he had these far-reaching ideals about everything-art, politics, religion, raising kids. Well-read, he could have a conversation about any topic.
Ironically enough, when he came to stay with us, he loved our cable television. When I visited him I asked, “can you even get t.v. without it?!” Yes, is the answer, as we watched a Joan Baez special on PBS.
I have Uncle Steve to thank for so many things.
First, my name. In high school Steve was dating Pamela Stedmond. When my mom met her she thought both Pamela and her name were beautiful. Here I am 48 years later with this name. Recently Steve went to his 40th high school reunion and there she was…Pamela Stedmond in all her glory. “Did you tell her I was named after her?” I asked excitedly. He laughed.
I was about 6 when my sister and I were flower girls in his first wedding. I have very clear memories of wearing this beautiful yellow mini-dress and throwing flower petals with my sister in a beautiful back yard. I was 28 when my sister and I were in my uncle’s second wedding in San Francisco. No longer flower girls, although it still felt like it.
When I was a junior in college, my dad and uncle drove me to school in what turned out to be a very fun road-trip. The two of them together laughed the entire trip and I learned more about their childhoods and my grandparents. They were evidently raised by two sets of entirely different parents, both of which were my grandparents!
It was also my Uncle Steve’s idea that my sister and I travel together. In March 1989, we visited him in San Francisco where we were completely fascinated by the city and his wild purple bathroom where if you angled yourself just the right way, you could see the Golden Gate Bridge while you shampooed.
Time and again, Uncle Steve stepped in as pseudo-dad for me. Often I bounced college and career ideas off him. Wearing a tuxedo for the first time, he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. Recently, my 14 year old son Joe commented to me, “For all purposes, Uncle Steve is like my grandpa.” A young, hippie grandpa.
I consider myself fortunate to have been the daughter of my dad and the niece of my Uncle Steve. Together they leave me a legacy of boundless ideas, funny stories and pride in my Wilson-ness. Every now and then I see a little Wilson peek through in my kids.
Sadly, this January my Uncle Steve lost his brave fight with cancer.
If I could send a post-card to my Uncle Steve now it would say:
“Wish you were here.”
Note: Miss him every single day of my life. As I know others do too. Thankfully we have Aunt Cathy and Cousin Sophie!
He would be fascinated by our lives, I am sure. And still watching our cable TV!
This was originally written and published in 2011 and I read it at his funeral. Still wish you were here, Uncle Steve. xoxoxo