Everyone has a “drunk uncle”. You know you do. He’s the guy at family parties who shows up half in the bag and then proceeds to stick his feet in the fireplace, or fall down the stairs. He’s the favorite of the children, he is the bane of the adults. He is generally funny and only shows up for family functions like Christmas or Thanksgiving or a baptism. The “drunk uncle” is always fun at church events.
My “drunk uncle” eventually moved in with us. At that point, he wasn’t so much fun. He had the disease of alcoholism. That is a very nasty disease. And contagious. Alcoholism does not just effect the alcoholic, but the entire family. It makes those who love the alcoholic do really insane things. And generally they do these things totally sober. So, the alcoholic has the excuse of being drunk when they do stupid things, the family does not. Bizarre.
Now, my uncle was funny. He had a very dry, sarcastic wit. By the time I came along, his rage had left him and he was resigned to dying from the disease. He drank without any boundaries. He had wet brain and reverse tolerance. But even still, he could come up with these one liners that would give me the giggles for hours.
Just before my grandmother died, her washing machine was acting up. It was a big dilemma whether or not we should bother fixing it because my grandma was in the hospital after breaking her hip, so would she even be able to get down the cellar stairs to do the laundry? After much debate, my mother decided that the washing machine should be fixed because if she came home she would want it to be working. We just couldn’t think of grandma not being able to do the things she always did. We couldn’t imagine our tiny, spunky, matriarch not cooking dinner and doing laundry or any of the hundreds of things she did in a day. As it turned out, getting the washing machine fixed didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It never really does, does it?
We were at my grandmother’s calling hours. My uncle and I were standing in the receiving line shaking hands, saying thank you for coming and looking pretty rough. My uncle was drunk-ish and every so often I would have to put a hand out to steady him. The rest of the family was circulating and visiting, leaving me to watch my uncle so that he didn’t fall over or take someone down in the middle of a sorry- for- your- loss-hug.
Towards the end of the line was a little old lady, a friend of a friend of the family. So, she comes along and gives us the hug and the look of sympathy and as she is holding one of my uncle’s hand and one of mine she says “It will all come out in the wash……” and she left us standing there, staring after her, lost in our grief. Until my uncle turned to me and said “Well, It’s a good God damn thing we got the washer fixed then, isn’t it?” At which point the two of us burst out laughing and drew looks of horror and recrimination from the family and all the guests. We had to hold each other up we laughed so hard.
So, drunk uncles are not always the best under pressure and they may be annoying or embarrassing, but you can always count on a drunk uncle to take an unbearable situation and make it a laugh riot in the most inappropriate, unacceptable way. Go give your drunk uncle a hug.