by Michael Hildenbrand
San Leandro, California, USA
Ollie was my mother’s brother, one of six children. He seemed to always be around our house when I was younger, and it was a good thing for me. He was the typical good uncle: playing and wrestling with his nephew. He would get me so worked up that I’m sure my mother despaired of ever having a quiet son again!
My family moved to a larger house when I was around five years old. This new house had many exciting places for a young boy to explore. One of these was an electrical socket located at my eye level. Since both my brother and I were out of the infant stage of life, our folks didn’t worry about it. Not knowing much about electricity, I wanted to see lightning fly out of this socket, and found two loose nails. But I wanted to show it off to Uncle Ollie. It didn’t take long to find a time when he was there and I had my hands on the nails.
I called to him “Hey, Uncle Ollie, look at this.” I couldn’t believe what had grabbed on to my arms! In my mind, I was jumping around kicking and screaming. In reality, as anyone who has witnessed someone attached to 110 volts can tell you, I was stock-still.
Understanding immediately what was happening, Uncle Ollie ran to me. Instead of grabbing me, which could have killed us both, he fell on me, breaking the electrical circuit and saving my life. From the heap we formed on the kitchen floor, he immediately asked, “Are you all right?” Yeah, I lied. It was only later that I learned what an act of courage this was on the part of my uncle to save me.
Thanks to Uncle Ollie giving me the chance to grow up, I completed a college degree, and got my Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies at U.C. Berkeley. While I was working on my first graduate degree, Uncle Ollie invited the family over to his house for barbecue and a swim. My first son, Matthew, had not yet learned to swim, but had a lot of fun playing with me in Uncle Ollie’s pool. He especially enjoyed going down the slide into the pool. My wife and I kept a watchful eye on Matthew, knowing he could only play in the pool with supervision.
At one point I lost track of Matthew for just a few minutes, during which he decided to go by himself on the water slide. Once again vigilant, Uncle Ollie saw Matthew go into the pool, dashed over and pulled him out, thus saving his life, too. I hope Ollie’s actions remind adults everywhere to be constantly watchful of the children in our midst. We need to protect them from the common dangers around us.
Thanks Uncle Ollie, for saving two generations in our family! But I hope he does not have to do this for the third generation, too.