Uncle (Flap) Jack

Posted August 28, 2011 by jimhigley

That's a very young me, circa 1977, with Uncle Jack

As a kid, he was simply “Uncle Jack.” Today, my kids all call him Uncle “Flap Jack.”

Jack was my dad’s oldest brother. They were part of the Omaha, Nebraska Higley brood of five kids. Dad was brother number four. Like everyone in that depression era, they were raised in a world with little money. They also had a life interrupted by a war. And they found themselves a couple of twenty-something-year-old men, back in a post-war America in search of  their destiny.

Uncle Jack’s destiny was found under the sunny skies of southern California. For my dad, his destiny with my mom and four brothers never took him more than 60 miles from the home he was born.

As a kid, having relatives living in California was tantamount to being blood relatives with Lucy and  Desi. It was an instant link (albeit a make-believe one) to Disneyland, Hollywood, and the Rose Bowl Parade. We took many magical winter trips to California to Uncle Jack’s palm tree lined house on Sydney Drive. Everything about Uncle Jack’s world was foreign and inspiring. He was surrounded by cities that sported the words “Hills” and “Beach” into their romantic names while I lived in an area where towns were named after war heroes or Indian Tribes. He drove on “boulevards” while we were left to the 23 “Streets” in our quaint town. My cousins wore shorts to school. Year-round. They knew kids who were on television. It all made for memorable visits.

What I remember most about those visits, however, was feeling warm. A warmth that went to my bones. A warmth that made me feel as though I had a soft blanket wrapped around me every moment. And as a kid, I racked that feeling up to the climate of this beautiful Pacific coast state.

I now understand where that warmth came from.

Uncle Jack, er- Uncle Flap Jack, today is 93-years young. He’s outlived all of his siblings except for his baby sister, Bev. He’s said goodbye to the love of his life, my Aunt Margaret. And he’s certainly said goodbye to hundreds of other people he’s loved.

But he’s never stopped loving.

My family was recently out visiting Jack. Still in California, he lives in a community full of other like-minded folks who have experienced a full life. Being with Uncle Jack is a lesson in living. Perhaps a little snippet from a conversation Jack had with my son, a buddy of his and me as we walked into Jack’s apartment might help explain:

Jack: Come in, come in! Would you two boys like something to drink?

My son: No thanks, Uncle Jack! We’re fine.

Jack: No, no, no! I went to the store so I could make you boys a nice, big root beer float. Have you ever had a root beer float? They are delicious! Come on, I’ll make you each a nice, big one!

As I sat there and watched the simplicity of this moment, I breathed in the lesson of his life. The true “meaning” is always right in front of you. He doesn’t live in the sadness of the past. Nor does he worry about tomorrows. He embraces his today. He goes to the store to buy ingredients for root beer floats. Maybe that explains the regular emails I receive from him with subjects that read “You won’t believe how beautiful this picture is!”

That's Uncle Flap Jack today with my youngest son

So where’d the name “Flap Jack” come from?

A few years ago, I had a pretty serious health issue. Cancer. It was after my dad had died. I was blessed with many caring friends.

But my favorite caregiver was Uncle Jack. In his late eighties, he hopped on a plane to fly out an be with me. He was the best medicine. And every day he woke up early to make flapjacks for the kids. One of his many culinary specialties.

His new name came from my youngest. Jack’s impact spans generations in our family.

He is the warmth in the blanket that wraps us all.

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I know you have an inspiring person in your life! Why don’t you do something  fun and put pen to paper. The great folks involved in the movie “The Help” are encouraging people to share their stories through the “Inspiring People Challenge.” Click this link and share a story about someone who has inspired you! The deadline is September 5, 2011! They’re even giving away a trip for two to New York City for a main stage performance of The Moth.

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Listen to more of Uncle Flap Jack in my radio interview with him on Bobblehead Dad on WebTalk Radio