I admit it. I read Walter's blogs and my eyes tear up. Every story leaves me lamenting the fact that I didn't have someone like that in my corner, that I wasn't presented the confidence-building encouragements he doles out like I do Warheads to my kid, that I didn't know someone just like Walter...hey, stop the presses! Gadzooks, Walter was my uncle.
You see, I knew Walter before he was Mr. Holland, I knew him when he was Uncle Walter. And Uncle Walter used to chase me mercilessly around the house with a Frankenstein mask, arms menacingly outstretched and moving terrifyingly slowly, relentlessly. He, William, and Jack were not so much older than I (though now, miraculously, they are way older than I am) and it was a little like having torturous siblings. And Walter: a lot more tortuous than some. Ask Jack about being roused in the morning with water droplets on his forehead, a la Chinese interrogator. Ask my mother if she recognizes Mr. Holland in little bubba Walter at the dinner table, who crammed his peas in the hollow frames of the dining chairs. Ask me if he complimented me carefully, nurturing my development into the fabulous, confident woman I have become today.
No, I think Walter is paying penance for past transgressions! I think he is the perfect teacher now because all of us went through his experimental adolescent ring of fire. And I think probably his wife has shaped him up a bit, as well. Quite simply, Walter is the teacher he is today because he recognizes himself in every one of those little kids. Something that I could learn to do more with Jake: recognize my ten-year old self.
Life, time, business, excuses, distance...Jake has never met Uncle Walter, and we should be ashamed. But Jake is meeting him now, in less than a month. And I sincerely hope that when we pull up, except for the loss of fiery red hair, and probably no longer sporting the ability to let me punch him in the stomach as hard as I can, that he is unchanged from my memories, from the stories with which I amuse my son. Because as great as Mr. Holland is for all these strangers, I imagine that Jake could use a little Uncle Walter. But if he teaches him to belch the alphabet....