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An Unfortunate Hero
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by Salief L
I clearly remember the time at our 2005 New Year family get together that my Uncle Neil was nicest as ever. It was right after dinner that we were going to play some poker, make a bonfire, and all the kids were going to have a big bash upstairs.
We decided that we'd make the bonfire first since it lasted the longest. As we made our way to the gigantic fire pit Uncle Neil gave me a piggyback ride down the hillside. My brother, my cousin Jed, and I lit the fire together for the first time in our lives. We were really excited about it and as soon as all of our flames hit the wood they went out. We were really bummed, so we tried it a couple more times and it still didn't work. So I asked my dad for help, he tried to use a technique that he learned as a boy scout, which required two rocks, yarn and a flammable gas. Since the kerosene was too scarce, my Dad wasn't able to start a flame, but fortunately Uncle Neil was. What he did was he broke two of the three lighters on a block of wood so the gas would spill out. Then Uncle Neil took a cardboard tube for blowing. He stationed the log under the pile of wood, lit the log's tip and blew like the Big Bad Wolf. We all cheered for him as I took over blowing through the tube.
We sat by the fire for a few minutes until it got too chilly for us. All the kids raced back up the hill, and on the final stretch, out of nowhere, Uncle Neil cut out of the woods and frightened everyone except me. That was my chance to get ahead. I won the race so therefore I got to choose what kind of poker we were going to play. I was jubilant.
We started the game as soon as the last two adults reached the house. My Great Uncle Neil shuffled and dealt according to the rules of Texas Hold'em. We played on for about an hour until the final round when it was only me against my other Uncle Kent. I was about to play my stinky hand and lose the game until Uncle Neil signaled me to look under the table. I did and found the king of hearts face up. I grabbed it, and happily played my royal flush that the king completed. Uncle Kent paid up and I ran over to Uncle Neil and started cracking up. I couldn't believe I dropped my key card when I was about to lose. If it wasn't for Uncle Neil, I would of lost all my chips.
I remember the time when I had first heard about Uncle Neil's sickness. Right after I heard the news and checked with my mom that it was the truth, I wouldn't say a word for days. I was an emotional wreck. I couldn't believe what was going to happen. After months and months he hadn't yet passed away. He was still holding on.
Being with Uncle Neil is always so much fun. It makes me really sad to know that he is sick. I try not to show it because I don't want to make him sad. Uncle Neil really never shows anyone if he is worried or frightened about his future. Uncle Neil is so positive and loving towards himself and his family I love him so much and he so dear to me it makes me cry when I see him so ill.
Over the last ten years since he was diagnosed my Uncle Neil has undergone two brain surgeries to remove parts of the tumor, chemo therapy, radiation, experimental radiation that pinpoints the tumor in the brain, steroid treatment, and countless other experimental drug treatments. He suffered so much pain and visits to the hospital I find it unbelievable that's he's still able to put a smile on our faces. He was a shunt in his head and a large scar visible to all. Although if you met my Uncle Neil you would never guess all he has been through. He has the great ability to put a smile on your face and make friends with everyone he meets. He tries so hard and does such a great job to please us, when we should be the ones pleasing him. The tumor has recently become active again, and the paralysis is starting to take effect on his face. Even though he may speak a little slower and move a differently then before, his heroic and generous spirit still fills each person he encounters.