The summer before my freshman year in college my mother and I went to dinner over my uncle Jimmy’s.
We called him Big Jimmy. His son, who was almost a year older than me, was known as Little Jimmy.
When I was a little boy Big Jimmy was a hero of mine. A tattooed, macho truck driver with a taste for good scotch, he always spoke his mind. When Little Jimmy was seven his mother divorced Big Jimmy.
Two dominant personalities, both refused to yield. Big Jimmy got custody on the weekends. Often he would swing by on a Friday evening with Little Jimmy and take me with them for a fun filled 48 hours. Go Karts, James Bond marathons, snowmobiling.
I treasured those weekends and envied my cousin for having such a cool dad.
As time past I grew to see my uncle for what he really was; just another hard working man who struggled to do the best he could fighting his demons.
That evening at dinner the topic of education came up. Little Jimmy was enrolled in diesel mechanic school while I was still undeclared, heading off to the local Jesuit college with no clear objective. Big Jimmy puffed out his barrel chest and said,
“My son is already on his way to a guaranteed paycheck and a marketable skill.” Then he looked directly at me. “And what about you? What have you got? As far as I can see, you got nothing but bird watching!” Then he laughed out loud.
At the time his comment cut me to quick. I never again felt the same about him. But the funny thing? He was absolutely correct!
Little Jimmy still drives a truck today. Like his dad, he is an honest, very hard working man. And me? I eventually stumbled into software development, fell in love with it and started my own company. I have made more money than I ever imagined possible and at 57 am a happily retired bird watcher!