I never imagined my Uncle Dana would become my best friend, but that’s what happened. It’s funny because while I don’t share a lot about myself with most people, I tell him everything. He’s my dad’s younger brother and they were thick as thieves. When I was in college and out on my own, any time my dad picked me up for a visit, Uncle Dana was right by his side. It was the same when my sister, cousins, and I were young girls.
My father died suddenly when I was 23 years-old. The memories of my dad fade as time goes on but I still remember the day he died and the days that followed so clearly. The thing about death is no one prepares you for the business of it. My parents had been divorced for years, so as a young adult now in charge of my father’s life, it was completely overwhelming. Arranging funeral services, cleaning out his apartment, paying bills and the dealing with all the drama was enough to make me want to run away from my family.
In the middle of the chaos, I remember standing in my father’s office at FedEx in Northern Virginia with Uncle Dana because we had to clean out my dad’s things and no one else was ready to do it. I was standing by the window staring at a replica FedEx cargo plane and I could tell my uncle saw the anguish in my face but he didn’t say much to me. I mean what do you say to your niece when her dad just died?
From then on, it wasn’t what he said, it was what he did. My father used to write little notes and slip in a 20 dollar bill here and there. Uncle Dana starting writing me those notes, without the money, but with more flare. He literally sketched my dreams, sent illustrations encouraging me to soar and shared photos so I would never forget the legacy of my father. Then, we started to talk on the phone. He started calling on me for support and advice and a sense of connection. We talked for hours about goals and relationships and spirituality. He actually tried to warn me about a years-long relationship that turned out to be a DUD. He met him in the lobby of the Four Seasons in Atlanta and told me instantly to stay AWAY. I didn’t listen, but Uncle Dana was sooooo right! But that’s what he does: he gives advice and lets you choose and he’ll never tell your secrets—just like my dad.
Uncle Dana has followed my journey in television. Even as old as I am, he always tells me I’m only at the beginning. During the pandemic, while most people were on lockdown, I still had to go to work. It was Bastille Day and I dressed up in the French red, white and blue and put on a scarf for some Parisian flare. I told Uncle Dana that I felt like a Delta Airlines flight attendant. He told me to send him a photo. He sent back a sketch of “Pandemic Danny.” My family still uses my nickname no matter how hard I’ve tried to end it!
Uncle Dana is not having the best time right now. Health challenges are never easy but he always encourages me to soar and I wouldn’t be here today without him. He has two daughters and now two granddaughters and a grandson. I love them all so much and have always been so thankful to them for sharing him. For me, this June is a tribute to the men who lift up the women in their lives and to the man who never left me or my sister behind. I love you, Dana Arnold Nottingham!
What about you? Who are the family members, specifically the men, who have lifted you up and kept you afloat?Leave a Comment