Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Everyone Loves That Wacky Uncle

For a while my uncle concerned himself with nuclear holocaust, so he grew an impenetrable beard, purchased two rifles, and hunkered into an upstate New York trailer park. An obvious solution to Cold War malaise. If Leonid Brezhnev or, dare I say, the Great Leader Kim Il-Sung came knocking on his door one afternoon in those heady days, colossal hydrogen bomb pointed two feet from the kitchen window and threatening to blow his whole damn double-wide into the Andromeda Galaxy, Uncle Conspiracy Theory would’ve channeled the spirit of Berserker and forced his way out like John Rambo punching the heads off unruly Cong. This Unabomber-like preparedness occurred before dear uncle welcomed our Lord & Savior back into his undeserving arms, but after his mini-career administering inkblot tests to loony tune mental patients.

And God love him, but beard or no beard the man boasts an uncanny resemblance to Orville Redenbacher, he of the ubiquitous red bowtie, buffoonish grin, and popping corn empire. Mercifully no other relation embodies these traits, but the fear of recessive inheritance, the silent killer which turned an otherwise good man into a paranoid sociopath with a fixation on truck stop cuisine and lumberjack couture, prowls in the murky underbelly of each holiday reunion. It’s the strangling vine around my family tree, pulling down whole fucking limbs. In other words, genetics has a funny way of blindsiding the most confident among us.

But everyone loves that wacky uncle. The guy yanking dimes out of your ear, pretending to steal your nose, and dutifully tossing out off-kilter knee slappers like bad jokes were going out of style; the avuncular jackass breaking a change roll in his mouth to vomit a dollar’s worth of pennies on your meatloaf, letting his dental emergency of loose “fillings” wreck dinner (again). You like this stuff? Well it's a good thing our families didn’t live across the street, because my uncle was more given to quoting occasional scripture with extraordinary relevance and precision. That said, if you maintained a peculiar interest in how the Pentagon was implanting microchips into the brains of ordinary citizens or poisoning our food supply to fatten the drug companies, you might be regaled for hours. He’s still coming to terms with receiving social security via direct deposit because, remember, government control of bank accounts is a half-skip away from government control of minds. And don’t expect a new Etch-A-Sketch on Christmas morning either when you’re more apt to find “Jesus H. Christ Is Your Supreme God, Volume 542” crammed into the stocking. At least he wrapped.

Nonetheless, if one steered clear of politics or religion (or direct deposit), he could be genuinely funny; quick witted and sharp in the most surprising of circumstances. Rarely a stirring conversationalist, he would lend you his ear for hours, to listen fairly but seldom impose. When each of my grandparents fell ill, he provided the needed care, ceaselessly giving of time and strength. And his penchant for calm mixed with delicate optimism was a blessing to my mother when my father passed on and the world all at once seemed to stop. The old adage about choosing your friends could never be more true, but family is family like it or not, and the bond of blood runs deep when tested.

But still, what a crazy bastard.


GartnerDogg said...

I particularly enjoyed this installment. I find it amazing that you managed to reference the Dear Leader, Rambo and Orville Redenbacher while penning a relatively poignant story.

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