REAL MEN: UNCLE BRAD

Like nearly all of the stories you will read in this series, I am terribly biased to the subject at hand.  No more than this one about my uncle, Brad Martin.

Uncle Brad is the epitomy of what it means to be a kind and decent human.  Quiet, calm, unassuming, hard working and loyal.

Born the son of World War II veteran and wonderful loving mother, Brad grew up in somewhat of a typical baby-boomer life. In his early adult years, he was a classic ‘free spirit’ of the mid and late 1960s.  Long hair-having, motorcycle-riding and (perhaps, on occasion) doobie-smoking cool dude you could find ride-or-die-ing from Lowell to Hampton Beach.  But that motorcycle was soon stopped in its tracks when he met Lillian Healy (sister to my Mom). 

For better or worse (ok, definitely for the better) Brad’s carefree, Rocking in the Free World, Love the One You are With outlook quickly turned to the love of his life; and has been steady for nearly 50 years.

Brad and Lil were married in 1972, spawn two awesome sons and built a wonderful life. 

Brad worked for more that 20 years in the men’s clothing industry selling high end threads to the businessmen of the 1970s and 80s.  Spent the second half of his career in the security systems business building a massive portfolio of loyal customers and friends.  A true workhorse, Brad just retired last year.

OK, now you have the ‘block and tackle’ facts on Uncle Brad’s life, let me tell you why he is such an incredible person and why he means so much to me.

Growing up very close to my cousins, I spent an enormous amount of time with the Martins.  From after school hangs to camping outings to trips to York Beach (Uncle Brad’s favorite place in the world) I was the shadow of the Martin family.

What Uncle Brad brought to the table for me were things I did not quite experience with my own Dad; like patience and level-headedness.  For those that know me, you understand how much I loved my father, but he was not…exactly “balanced” at times, especially when raising his only son through the wonder years. 

See, Frank was an Irish madman.  He loved to yell and holler.  He loved to punish me (probably well deserved) and, frankly, scared me at times.  From the time I was very little until I was long (considered) an adult, I ran to Uncle Brad when I feared the wrath of Big Frank at home.  Quite often, when I would habitually do something stupid and knew I was in for a tongue lashing and a 2 week grounding, Uncle Brad would put my mind at ease.  He delivered sound and soothing advice to how I should manage my most recent dilemma.

The examples are endless, but let me share my all time favorite.

Fall of 1990.  A typical Friday night in the Mill City.  My friends and I seeking some type of neighborhood mischief.  Hanging out on the private grounds of a local golf club with twenty or thirty co-delinquents, we were just doing typical teenage“stuff”. Trying to impress girls, sneak a few warm, backpack beers someone smuggled out of their parents’ house. 

No biggie.

Until….

The herd of pubescent pinheads heard a noise.  Sounded like a car?  What was it?  Then we saw headlights of some sorts raging across the 3rd fairway of this Staples Street staple.  Uh oh.  It was the groundskeeper.  And he was coming at us fast.  He was coming at us angry.  He was coming for all of us to break up this little gathering of hormone-filled hang-arounders.

Naturally, this brave, mature and moric band of adolescents did the wise thing; ran like hell into the woods.  Off we scattered. Every boy, girl and child for themselves.  Like they say “When running from a bear, you don’t have to be the fastest, just the second slowest”.  And while I was always in the conversation for dumbest, I was pretty quick in those days.

I go barreling into the dark, wooded unknown with one goal in mind; do NOT get caught by Groundskeeper Willie (or Jackie in this case).  (Did I forget to mention that my pursuer was also a friend of Dads? This would not end well for me if captured.)

Flying through the echoes and shadows, I saw a glimmer of light in my path.  What I did not see was the murky marsh I was about to run right in to in 3, 2….splash.  Yup, waist deep in a muddy mess like Woodstock, minus the nudity and acid.

Oh, s#!+….this isn’t good at all.  Untangle myself from the soily-earth-bath and keep trudging toward the light to catch up with my co-conspirators.  Greeted with insane laughter, I would surely need a plan.  Cousin Brad, who lived a few short blocks from our landing point offered counsel.

Dude, you cant go home to Uncle Frank like this.  He will lose his mind and you will be locked down until Christmas.  Letsgo to my house and figure it out.

Smart advice. 

Upon arrival, Uncle Brad greeted Junior and his Swamp Man Nephew with a head scratch, but not anger.

“What the hell happened to you?,” he uttered and started to giggle.

Uncle Brad, listen, I swear that…, “ I nervously scrambled.

“Relax.  I don’t even want to know.  But you can’t go home.  Stay here tonight.  I’ll call your parents.  Aunt Lil will wash your clothes.  No one needs to know.”

My man.

And while that’s a funny example, it is just one far too many times Uncle Brad took very good care of me, treated me like a 3rd son and had my best interests in mind. Always.

Brad treated everyone he encountered with an open mind, a welcoming smile and a gentle kindness that you can not manufacture or feign. 

He is a just a good and decent man.

A family man.

Real Man.

P.S. Happy 72nd Birthday, buddy (published January 15, 2021)

Uncle Brad

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