I had seven uncles. One passed away this morning. I'm down to four. When I was a kid, my uncles seemed larger than life to me. They were smart, funny, strong, brave, and kind. One was a mountain of a man, strong as an ox, all farmer. Two were scientists, a third made a career out of the Navy. One was a crop duster, another an educator and historian, and one was so remarkably bright that I loved to simply listen to him talk. They were born in the 1930s and 1940s. Black and white pictures of them dressed in blue jeans and white t-shirts - young, lean men with so much ahead of them - make my heart full and make my heart ache all at once. I loved their smiles. I don't have any memories of them that aren't awash in those smiles, and I tell myself those smiles were for me. Now I am an uncle and I know the joy of being in the presence of my sister's children. I suspect a similar joy filled the hearts of those fine, smiling men I've loved so much.