When Allie Stark, a fitness and wellness coach, starts to talk about her Uncle Richie, you can hear her light up through the phone. “There’s always been an availability about him, probably because he didn’t have children,” she says. Stark remembers having wonderful outdoor adventures with him whenever she visited he and his wife in upstate New York. They live on 200 acres of protected forest, where the Catskill mountain range is visible from their home.
“He’s kind of a man of the wild,” she says, “an environmentalist, in many ways.”
Stark’s uncle and his wife never had or wanted children of their own, which, she felt, made it feel as though there was an availability about him that might not exist, if he’d been a father himself. While that was something she noticed early on, it was when Stark was in her early 20s when she felt her relationship with her Uncle Richie deepened.
“At the time, I had lots of health issues, and he would always ask how I was. He asked in a way that conveyed that he really seemed to care,” she says, quietly. It’s obvious this meant a great deal to her.
Later on, Uncle Richie loaned her the money to complete her Master’s degree, something Stark admits was a big vulnerability for her to ask. But, in doing so, her uncle showed that he supported her choices. “He encouraged me to march to the beat of my own drum,” she says. The deep acceptance of who she was helped her with confidence and allowed her to spread her wings.
To this day, Stark spends up to six weeks a year nearby, to be with him and his wife. And it’s clear why, once she reveals to me that Uncle Richie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago. That’s part of the urgency she feels in holding on to the relationship. Beyond that, however, she believes their home remains “a place to unplug from the chaos of the world,” she says, “and my relationship with them is one of the most sacred things I have.”
Allie Stark has over a decade of experience in the field of integrative health. She received her master’s degree in Integrative Health from the California Institute of Integral Studies and works as a life coach, public speaker, writer, and podcast host. Allie uses her work as an opportunity to teach and empower others to find optimal health, happiness, and balance in their lives. When she isn’t working, you can find her playing in the sun, drinking a smoothie, ghosting out of a party, or dreaming of upstate NY (where her uncle lives!).