Uncle Matt left view of the world through his eyes
Posted 2/09/16 (Tue)
By Steve Andrist
For our family, he was Uncle Matt.
Sure, it was a little awkward to refer to someone 16 years your junior as “uncle,” but that was Matt.
The unclish traits fit his personality to a “T” -- larger than life, lover of life, dispenser of advice on everything from canoeing to politics to chemical spill remediation to literature, everybody’s friend, shirt-off-his back kind of guy.
He was uncle to our boys, and the name just fit, so he was uncle to us, too.
Or Mattquest, because he could find any location in the Twin Cities from any other location.
Or Mattman, because, like Batman, of his aura of invincibility.
Turns out he wasn’t invincible.
Matthew Frank Anderson, husband of Yvonne Anderson, brother-in-law of Barbara Andrist, and uncle to our sons, died Feb. 4, 2016 at the age of 46.
But not before, in concert with his personality, he defied all the odds.
On Jan. 29, 2006, at age 36, Matt suffered a grand mal seizure that led doctors to find a very large brain tumor, not malignant but sufficiently intertwined with his brain so as to preclude any hope of surgical intervention.
They looked at the scans and studied the tests and concluded that perhaps they could slow its growth for a few years -- five at the most.
It was a blow to the gut for Yvonne -- for all of us, really -- but Matt took it in stride, and five years later it was almost as if he had totally thumbed his nose at this mass that was trying to overtake his brain.
In the next few years there would be signs that not everything was the same as it had been, but if the women folk wanted to spend a few hours running from store to store to store, we were content to wile away the hours in discussion about Third World famine, refugee resettlement or how the fish were biting on his last trip up north.
I could hold my own -- almost -- but invariably I learned much more from him and the huge number of books he’d read and remembered than he did from me.
I’m still learning.
After he passed, we were rummaging through “stuff” in their suburban St. Paul home and came across a note pad with a drawing of an angel at the top and the saying “faith gives the heart wings” at the bottom.
All the pages were full, journal entries hand scrawled by Matt in 2008.
The pages showed a progression of Matt’s state of mind through the long journey with what became known as BT -- brain tumor.
The very first page made clear why his unassuming insight was passed so easily to those of us who learned from him.
“I tried to understand the world through the lens of what I was told by others. I found, as life progressed, that I had a much clearer view of the world through my own eyes.”
Thankfully, he was willing to share that view.
For years and years, Americans from the heartland to the D.C. Beltway bemoaned our country’s dependence on imported energy. We were at the mercy and the whim of unstable OPEC countries, and feared that one terrorist attack or one dictator’s fit of anger would plunge us deeply into another crippling energy shortage.
Then came the Bakken, and other shale oil plays, and in a matter of a few years America was producing nearly all of the energy we were consuming.
Our dream had come true.
Almost simultaneously, climate change, under the Obama administration, became more compelling than energy dependence.
Clearly, climate change deserves our attention. But Washington’s approach has been to deliberately work at crippling the fossil fuel industry, on which we remain immensely dependent, in favor of renewable sources.
Obama’s parting shot last week was to propose a $10-a-barrel tax on crude oil.
“Way to kick somebody when they’re down,” proclaimed Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the president’s own party.
Clean energy initiatives are important, but Obama’s single-mindedness on energy issues is an overreach that harms Americans and their economy.