Perhaps this is a bit off topic, but if there’s anyone worth making an exception for, it’s Uncle Rixie. I think there are only two people in the world who can actually claim him as a legitimate uncle, but dozens who claim him as a surrogate uncle, parent or grandfather. Long story, but when my father came to the US to attend Stanford as a freshman, he was taken under the wing of his Western Civ professor. Dad became one of many people who learned that Rixie and his wife, Elliott, were very poor at keeping acquaintances, but very good at adoption. With no children of their own, scores of fortunate people became their family.
I had Rixie’s big day noted on my calendar for some time and without question thought I’d be in the Bay Area with him to celebrate. But not only do our circumstances make that difficult, but Uncle Rixie’s own health is such that he declined any celebration and isn’t feeling well enough to talk on the phone. There’s so much good to say about him it’s difficult to know where to start, but anyone who has had the priviledge will understand my need to make mention of him.
If you’ve lived one hundred years, you remember life before every family had a car or telephone. You lived through two World Wars and saw 19 different US presidents (starting with Teddy Roosevelt!). In Uncle Rixie’s case, the 100 years were filled with meaningful service to Stanford University and thousands of students in the classroom and as Dean of Admissions (how do you think I got in?). While the milestone he’s achieved in his lifespan is impressive, more so are the scores of friends he’s made along the way. I’m certain I am one of many who lament that we can’t celebrate him en masse today.
So tonight I no longer wish I could be in two places, rather in three. It’s hard to beat sitting here in Santa Barbara listening to the unbridled laughter of three incredible kids, but I’d give an awful lot if I could have just a few minutes to be with Rudy at UCLA or to sit with Uncle Rixie in his apartment in Palo Alto. Happy Birthday, Uncle Rixie! Congratulations and thanks for everything! I sure would love to work out a way to squeeze in a trip to the Bay Area. But given the challenges we’re facing I didn’t want this incredible milestone for an incredible man to pass without some mention.