Uncle Phil's in the hospital. Today is his great-grand-daughter Nola's third birthday; she is one of four of Ruth and Phil's great-grandchildren.
We all say Phil, a chain-smoker who loves his sweets, has been living on borrowed time - we've been saying this for the last twenty years or so. We also love to laugh at the old stories at his expense - Ruth embroidering a clown to disguise the ash holes burned in his sweatshirt, his favorite epithet "Judas Priest!", the famous tumble down the hill - but we rarely talk out loud about his great act of love. We are probably following his lead, for he never showed a trace of doubt, never voiced a single regret or question about the decision to take us four children into his home and treat us as his own. Once he made the decision with Ruth, he never looked back - as if the upheaval of their lives was inevitable and what he had planned all along. To be our loving but impatient, surly while good-hearted, often giggly and affectionate, never-perfect guardian for the whole of his long and smoky life.