I remember the first time meeting him. I had to have been around six or seven years old. That was a long time ago, but I remember it as though it were just yesterday. I think it was a Saturday because we were at home. The first thing I noticed about him was how tall he was. He looked like a beautiful giant. I remember holding my head so far back that it felt like it was going to fall off. I wanted to take in all six feet plus of him. My eyes traveled from his feet to his head while I bubbled over with excitement. Who was this beautiful giant? My mother must have read my young mind because she blurted, “Girl, that’s your uncle.” I wasn’t really sure what an uncle was, but it sounded pretty cool. I stood there marveling at this man who was my uncle, my mother’s younger brother—Albert Baker. Then all of sudden I was no longer on my feet, I was over his head. He had hoisted me into the air. “You want to see your grandmother?” he asked. I giggled and said, “Yes.” Then he flipped me over and through his long legs that were spread apart. I thought I was really going to see my grandmother, but I realized later that that was just a saying he used when performing an acrobatic stunt with his unsuspecting niece.
As he set me back on my small feet, I realized in that moment that I was in love with my uncle, and I never wanted him to leave our house. But he did and I was sad. He lived in Los Angeles and we lived in San Francisco. After my mother died in 1975, my brother and sister and I moved to Los Angeles to live with my grandparents. That was the worst year of my life, but the upside was that I would be around my mother’s family and that meant I would be around my Uncle Man, as we called him. On holidays, the family would gather at my grandparent’s house and we would have an amazing time with one another. I would always get excited because I loved seeing my aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I particularly loved the idea of hanging out with my Uncle Man. I could be in the kitchen helping my grandmother, or helping out with the younger kids, but the moment I heard his voice, I’d stop what I was doing and rush over to him so that I could greet him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. In my mind, he was like a celebrity or movie star. He definitely had matinee idol looks. As I grew older, went to college and started pursuing acting, I didn’t see him as much, but I did manage to stay in touch and he always kept up with my progress. I recall him coming to see me in a play on Wilshire Boulevard once. I had no idea he was coming. It was an amazing surprise.
My Uncle Man was the epitome of a great husband, father, brother, nephew, and cousin. He was all of that to many people. He took care of his family, provided for them, and loved them. He has been there for all of us. And as a marine, he was there for his country. When I learned of his illness, I wanted to be there for him. All of us did. I’m glad I was able to be there when I could as he made his transition. The outpouring of love and support is indicative of the life he led. He was an honorable man, a loving man and he will be missed for now. I say for now because I believe one day I will see him again. And as we prepare for his homegoing celebration, I believe he’s already had one. I believe God and our family members who have already gone home were waiting at the pearly gates for him, smiling with extended arms, welcoming him to his true home. That’s what I choose to believe. It’s what a man like my uncle truly deserved.
In closing, when he found out I had joined the cast of Tyler Perry’s Assisted Living, he was ecstatic. I was so thankful to God that he got to see me on the show before he went home. I was so happy that he saw that his encouragement and support over the years had not been in vain.
I will love you throughout eternity Uncle Albert “Man” Baker.