Tag Archives: family

And Then…I turned 40!!!

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This is what 40 looks like

This is what 40 looks like

I turned 40 last year, December 24, 2012. I hadn’t given it too much thought really. I have lived alot of life up till now, nothing to do with age. As far as getting old, well, I have already done that. I did that as soon as I had baby #1. It’s just a fact of life. Become a parent, you are automatically “old”. Ask anyone without kids if you are older or younger than them. Just a fact. Try to deal with that graciously.

I never have expectations about anything and my birthday was no exception. My daughter who is 14 had asked me way back in october if I would want a party and I said no. My birthday is on christmas eve! No one wants to deal with going to a party during the holiday. Nice thought but no. And I thought that was the end of it.

So, my bff (who turned 40 this year) called me a couple of weeks before my birthday and said she and her family are taking me out on December 23rd for my birthday. Ok! That sounds very fun and I am so honored that she, my bff, the sister I was lucky enough to pick, was making something special out of my 40th. She said the kids were really excited to take me out to lunch so no backing out. Because she knows that sometimes I just get to a place in my head where I just cannot deal with being a lovely person and then I just hibernate until I can deal again. I said “Yes, bff, I will be there and thank you” and I loved her.

You see, no one has ever made any sort of “big deal” out of any of life’s celebrations for me. I guess because all of life’s celebrations I have always screwed up one way or another. Birthdays, graduations, wedding, babies…I have never done any of those conventionally and so, no one ever made a big deal out of any of those things. A really great lesson on no expectations, no resentment. So, lunch with my bff, her family and my kids for my 40th birthday sounded really perfect.

About a week before the 23rd, my bff and I were talking and she was slightly stressed as she was in the process of selling her house and building a new one, and her husband was out of town, and she had alot of orders for her 1 year old candle business, and she had lines to learn for the show she was in…plus christmas…I jumped right in and said “we can totally cancel lunch and just get together after christmas, no biggie!” and she said “no. your kids are really looking forward to doing this for you” so, ok, lunch is still on. I don’t want to disappoint the kids.

Then comes December 23rd and we are supposed to meet my bff at my fav restaurant at 2. The girls and I go get our annual manicure and we are done at 1. So, we head over toward the restaurant. I am always early. I just am. It is probably as annoying as people who are always late, but I can’t seem to help myself. And so, we start heading to the restaurant. My kids are doing their thing, listening to their ipods. Just before we get to the restaurant I remember that my contacts were ready for pick up at the mall. So, we swing by the mall and I send in my daughter to grab my contacts. By the time she gets out (day before christmas eve the mall was mobbed) it was about 1:45. So, we head over to the restaurant and I am feeling anxious as now I feel like we are going to be late (anything close to on time feels late to me).

As I pull into the parking lot and I see my friend Robb’s car. It is a obnixious yellow car with a personalized licence plate so it is definitely his car. I was so excited!! Robb was somewhere in this restaurant eating and I was going to run up to him and accuse him of calling me fat! It’s an inside joke we had been going back and forth with for weeks. Oh I was giggling already to see his surprised face when I come out of no where and catch him calling me fat (which he wouldn’t have really been doing, but that is the joke…you had to be there). So, we park and I am giddy to get in there and find him…oh he is going to have to explain to his lunch companion why some crazy red head just ran over and started yelling at him for calling her fat!!! Yes, this is my idea of fun at age 40. Nothing wrong with that. I told you have lived ALOT of life up till this point. Whatever.

We walked in and there is my bff, her husband, her kids, her mom and Papa. She had told me the day before that her mom was going to be there so I knew I should make an effort in my appearance because I know her mom appreciates that sort of thing. We gave everyone a hug and I was STILL so excited to go find Robb!! So, as we were walking towards our table I am looking everywhere for Robb or for his Tina. Scanning, ready to pouce….I didn’t even see that we had been walked right to the huge double doors of the private diningroom when all of the sudden my BFF throws open the doors in the most dramatically classic surprise party way and there stands all my wonderful friends. And I just start sobbing like a total idiot.

I mean, ugly cry, snot, swollen eyes…it was NOT pretty. My bff hugged me and said “I am so glad you dressed nice today. I know you would have killed me if you hadn’t done your hair. Thank God you did your hair!!” I was shocked. I had no clue. Both my kids knew. They had planned every last detail with my bff. And never did they let on. At all. Not my 14 yr old, not my 9 year old. I was completely blown away. There was the banner of me as a baby naked in the tub, there was a fancy cake, there was a video presentation (done by Robb who was there, which totally ruined my plan…). It was like nothing I had ever experienced. It’s been almost 3 months and I still can’t believe they did this!!!

I am still teary thinking of all these friends who took time out of their hectic holiday schedule to come and celebrate with me. My family was there, my bff from NYC, one of my girlfriends from middle school who I had reconnected with but hadn’t seen since 8th grade…it was better than anything you would see on the Hallmark channel. Better than a Lifetime movie. It was the perfect way to celebrate 40 years.

All of the people who I love, oh and there were presents, which was so fun!! It was all so overwhelming. I tried to make one of those speeches which is expected…but I just cried. Which is exactly what I did when I had to make my Maid of Honor speech at my bff’s wedding. Embarrassing. My bff covered for me and said what I couldn’t, just like she did at her wedding. I am still in awe thinking back to how they pulled this off, how my friends took the time to gather and how much it truly effected me. Sure, there were some people missing but when you live with no expectations it is never a disappointment. They were all there in my heart no doubt.

And as we were cutting the cake my bff said “See, El, there are some really great perks to being a single mom with great kids and a bff who loves you” Which totally made me cry more. Then she said in her mafia voice “There will be no surprise party for my 40th so you might as well get that idea right out of your head. If there is even a slight hint about a surprise 40th I will kick your ass and divorce you and my husband. Understand?”

Thank you to all who came, for what you all mean to me in my life, to my bff and my kids, my family and most of all to Life for allowing me 40 years…

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Once in a Lifetime Friend

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Our Jim

My friend Jim was a swell guy. I know he thought of himself as grumpy or prickly but I didn’t see that. He was funny and loving and very wise. And patient. It’s funny  how we view ourselves compared to how the rest of society views us. Sometimes the negative things others tell us we are sticks and we go about life believing we really are those negative things even if we don’t present those traits to the world.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Jim. My dad pulled up as I was coming out of the house. There in the passenger seat was Jim, looking like I was going to slap him. Dad introduced us and I shook his hand, smiling. He tentatively smiled back as if he couldn’t believe I was being pleasant and nice to him. I was a bit baffled by his reaction to meeting me, but Dad looked really happy and that was all that mattered.

Jim  became a part of my dad’s life and as I got to know him, I began to understand why he assumed that I wouldn’t like him or accept him. That had been his life experience up to that point. His family wasn’t supportive of his lifestyle and he had come to expect intolerance and hate and anger. When I brought the kids over it was as if they had always been a part of his life. They loved him immediately. Again, they didn’t see of feel any grumpiness from him….I wonder who convinced him he was  a grumpy guy…

Not too long after Jim became a part of my father’s life, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. That put their relationship into fast forward. Jim moved in with dad to help care for him and to spend as much time together as possible. Dad’s diagnoses was pretty bad. Almost 50 years of smoking had finally caught up with him.

As sad as the circumstances were that landed Jim at dad’s it was actually heaven-sent. Jim was the perfect complement to my dad and like I said the kids and I loved him. We became family. Looking back, I can’t imagine not loving anyone who my father loved. But Jim and I had an extra special bond. I could feel it but I didn’t really get what it was.

Come to find out Jim was well versed in the 12 step program. Finally!!! My dad found himself a program person!!! I knew I loved Jim!! We had a language we could share and that language became invaluable in the coming year as we took care of my father as he died. We laughed and we cried and we totally understood each other. It gave dad great comfort that Jim and I were as tight as any family of choice is.

We held each other up when the man we loved died. He died with us there, knowing that we would be there for each other in this time of grief. In the years that followed, Jim was my rock. He was one of my closest friends. He was the one I called when the crisis crashed and when the insanity became too intense. Not only did he fix things around my house, like lights and lawn mowers and windows, but he also did a fabulous job decorating my livingroom.

Jim was my family. He came trick or treating with us. He was here on Christmas morning to watch the kids open presents from Santa, he got along better with my mother than my father did…

And then, one spring day, he dropped by just to say hello and talk about what we needed to do to my house to get it ready for summer. He had lunch with the youngest kid and myself. He winterized the snow blower and played a round of Uno with us and as he was leaving he hugged me tight and told me he loved me.

Later that night I got a call from the state police that he was no longer with us. He had left me a note.

I was sad, very mad and I went through the ‘why me’. But all of that passed. I respected Jim, I respected his choice. I respected that he felt that he could no longer continue in this life. The anger didn’t dissipate right away though. It took a very long time. Whenever I had to take down a storm window, or winterize the lawn mower or choose a paint color for the family room, I cursed Jim. And he knows it. I loved him unconditionally but man, I was pissed that he checked out and left me all alone to fight my battles.

Today, I am no longer angry. I know he is in a better place (although I know he didn’t believe he’d go anywhere special or that there was anywhere special to go) and I talk to him regularly. Both him and dad. I hear his very rational advice, I hear him calling me out on being a nutjob, I hear his laugh…I feel his honesty and I feel his love. He is gone but I am so grateful to have had him in my life in such an important way.

We squeezed so much life into such a short period of time. There will never be another man like him in my life. I am very lucky that we were able to share the world. He was my ally and advocate and I was his biggest fan.

And whenever I dust, I remember his very sage advice : NEVER clean hardwood floors with Pledge.

Happy National Adoption Day

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Nope, Santa didn't bring me....or did he?

It’s actually National Adoption Month, but today is the day. I was adopted when I was 5 months old. This is a fact I was always aware of and never allowed to forget. Being adopted in my family meant that I was extra special as I was planned for and waited for and my parents had to jump through hoops to get me and I came with directions. It also meant that I could legally marry my cousins. Ha ha.

As a kid, being adopted wasn’t a big deal. I mean, some kids in elementary school made fun of me, but then again, they also made fun of kids who weren’t adopted so, no harm no foul. But being adopted lends to some great fantasies. Like when an adopted kid is punished, we can truly believe that someday our “real” parents will come save us. And when we are really mad we can say “you’re not my REAL mom” which generally gets us some sort of reaction that distracts from the bad deed done. A non-adopted kid can’t say those things with any amount of seriousness. Nor can they check out people at the grocery store and wonder if they might be related.We have a whole other side to ourselves that we don’t know but are free to create. That is the main difference between us and non adopted kids. There is no mystery to being a non adoptee.

The pros and cons of being adopted balance each other out. My mother always acknowledged my personal “adoption day” with a present. That was fun because my birthday is on a major holiday so to get a present on a day that was half way to my birthday was fun. I was unique within my family. I knew I was wanted. On the flip side, I knew that I was unwanted by my birth family, I was unique within my family and sometimes being reminded once a year that I was not blood related to my mother was a double edge sword.

When I was younger, finding my birth family seemed like a very important issue. As I got older, it became less of an issue. Until I gave birth to my first child. Then I knew that for her sake I needed to get some information on where I came from. I registered with the NYS Adoption registry. This is a registry put in place for those of us in closed adoptions. At the time of my adoption in 1973, my birth mother put down some very simple facts for me to someday know. The height, weight, hair color of both her and my birth father, the circumstances of their life at the time of their decision to give me up and any health issues they knew of.

The day I received this information in the mail, I ripped open the envelope and said to my brother-in-law “well, I’m not black!” And we laughed for about a half an hour. The info was very short and to the point. Not enough for me to be able to fill in the health history that everyone has to fill out at the doctor’s office. Again, not having a health history is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t know what I need to be scared of, and I don’t know what I need to be scared of….see? I can choose to focus on that as a positive or a negative. I chose positive.

Adopted kids even get to eat the bow!!!!

We adopted kids are generally very protective of our parents feelings surrounding us searching for our birth parents. I know one of the major reasons why I don’t actively search is because I would never want to hurt my mother’s feelings. My dad was a little miffed when I told him about getting my non identifying information. My dad simply forgot I was adopted. To him, I was just his kid. After all, whenever we went anywhere together everyone always said how much we looked alike and that goes double  when we went out with my kids. Dad would always just accept the compliment without pointing out that it was actually impossible for me to look like him.

I had some friends who were also adopted. One friend didn’t find out until she was 16 and she was searching through her mother’s drawers for a lighter and came across the finalizing paper work for her adoption. She came to terms with the lies she had been raised with but she never fully trusted her parents again. Another friend was adopted and so was his sister. I was always jealous of them because I wanted a sister or brother…I had another friend who was adopted into an extended branch of my family. My mother’s friend adopted a baby and mom and I made a big deal out of welcoming her into a very special club.

Adoption is one of the most incredibly selfless, unconditional ways of becoming a parent. Those of us who have biological children will never understand. To desire a child so much, a child that does not share your own DNA and to know beyond all doubt that you will love that child because of these differences is, well, it’s love. Especially in the world today, a world where people can undergo treatments to get pregnant despite their own bodies being unwilling. A world where infertility is looked at as a disorder to be fixed or treated, a person in this world who decides to adopt is pretty incredible.

I didn’t have to pass any tests or undergo any interviews before I was allowed to have kids, like adoptive parents do. I can’t tell you if that is a good or bad thing…. They go through rounds of social workers, therapy sessions, background checks so through the agency will KNOW if they were the kid picking on me in elementary school for being adopted. On top of that, there is generally a large fee involved. I have to say, I got pregnant for free, been paying for it ever since though :).

 I was adopted through Catholic Charities so I was free (but my parents have been paying for it ever since 🙂 ). Today, many people adopt from over seas which involves tens of thousands of dollars and time commitments that go above and beyond my measly 13 hours of hard labor. And the pain when a birth family backs out at the last-minute would be far greater than any labor pains I experienced.

Today, on National Adoption Day, please give an adoptive parent a hug or send a letter to your legislature for gay adoption or maybe consider taking a child into your home. If you have the love to give, then give it. So many children need good homes, they need to be part of a family. Who wouldn’t want to make a difference? I know that kid sitting in a foster home or in an overseas orphanage is ready and willing to make a difference in some lucky family’s life.

I Was A Village People

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village people 4 I grew up in the village that my mother grew up in and her parents grew up in and her father’s parents grew up in. My mother’s mother moved to the village from another state when she was 8 months old…a fact that she was never allowed to forget. Seriously. When the village honored lifetime residents, my grandpa and his mother were honored in a big ceremony right in the middle of the village. The mayor gave them both plaques and said a few kind words. My grandma was pissed!!! I mean, she had lived there since she was a baby….but it didn’t count.She wasn’t BORN there ya see….

Growing up, I knew everyone in the village. And I was related to more than half somehow or another. I knew every “family” home in the village. There was at least one on every street. The house my grandma grew up in always got the “comment” every time we drove by. She would make my grandpa or mom (she didn’t drive, her legs were too short) slow down to a crawl so she could inspect and comment. “I like what they’ve done with the shutters” or “Why would they take out that shrub? It was a perfectly good shurb…I remember when Charlie planted it”. Mom would commiserate, grandpa would mutter under his breath “Jesus Christ Irene”…one of his all time favorite expressions.

village people I lived in a 6 block radius from my grandparents and my great grandma lived right across our back yard (in her own home…she wasn’t homeless  or anything). I used to wander over there a few times a day. She was in her 90’s and didn’t do much except sit on the porch rocking during the day or watch Lawrence Welk at night. She had a pear tree in the back yard and grandpa grew grapes for wine, and kept a garden for her. She was almost totally deaf so I had to yell to get her to hear me. I was like 7, so yelling was no big deal for me. Mostly we sat in silence unless she was telling me about who else came to visit her that day. “Frieda stopped by with some canned tomatoes.” “Mabel and Gene were here yesterday.” “Freddy Sindenfoof came over to check on me because I hadn’t opened my shades yet today.” It was nice to just sit and watch the occasional car drive by.

village people 5Between my grandparents and my parents, they had the entire village covered. Who belonged to who’s family, who were cousins, who got married, who had babies, who the babies were named after and who in the village was new. There were so many names of families…but the one name that would always send grandma through the roof was Schmitt. Grandpa would go every day to have lunch with his mother (great grandma) AFTER he had lunch with us. Yup, two lunches a day just to keep the two women in his life happy cause when they had to be together, they were not happy. And then he would go up to Schmitt’s house to sit on lawn chairs on the front porch and shoot the breeze. Schmitt was blind,but they would tinker around with small engines and whatever all else old men putter around with. It would drive my grandma wild! She would say “where are you headed to now Wig?” with that tone in her voice (I bet you can hear the tone…that we’ve-been-married-almost-50-years-tone) and he’d say “Schmitt’s” and she would say “Schmitt Schmitt Schmitt it’s always Schmitt!!!” and off he would go. And grandma would vent about how much time grandpa spent with Schmitt.

I liked Schmitt. I wasn’t allowed up to his house much. And he very rarely came down to grandma and grandpa’s. But he was a good guy as far as I could tell. Arlene, grandma’s across the street neighbor, was pretty strict about us roller skating in her driveway. And if grandma left the porch light on past 10pm, Arlene would call to remind her. She had 3 grown kids who would come by every so often. Bobby drove a huge pick up and was always loud and funny, Jimmy was much younger and kinda cute, drove a trans-am like The Dukes of Hazard, and her daughter only came around when she was in need. No one really talked about her daughter.

Uncle Norm, my grandpa’s brother and my grandpa would take bikes that kids threw out to the curb for the garbage man and rebuild them and give them away to kids who needed them. They were always souping up my bike with banana seats, and horns and baskets. I always had the coolest bike around. The neighborhood kids always brought their bikes over for Gramp to fix the chain or pump up the tire or switch out a seat. Famous Bike Repair.

The old families started dying out. Many moving to nursing homes. Not my family. Great grandma died in her home, grandpa died snow blowing Arlene’s driveway and grandma fell and broke her hip and would have died at home if given the chance. Uncle Gene lived to be 101 in his own home, then went to the hospital nursing home wing where my mother could visit every day. Aunt Jesse was the only one I knew to go to a nursing home. It was her choice.

village people 2 I had my own list of families I knew. The Mussi’s, The Kirts’s, The Michelski’s, The Bollenbacher’s, The Herrgessel’s, The Gammon’s, The Bonus’s, The Benthin’s, The Merrit’s. Those were the kids I played with. All of us village kids. Most of us 2nd if not 3rd generation village kids. The times they were a-changin…but it was still a small village. We would have parades and put on circuses, and explore the spaces in-between our houses. It was fun. But the village did begin to change.

It began to grow, they developed the parks that were the center of the village, traffic began to increase greatly as the developments beyond the village began to grow. People were now living in Syracuse but working in Radisson or Clay and went through my little village. The greyhound bus station opened about a mile away. I thought then that is the end of this little village as I knew it. And it was. Now it is me who slows down when I drive through the village. I see what they have done with my house, with my grandma’s house, my great grandma’s house, my first sunday school teacher’s house, Jane Franklin’s house (spent many a sunny Saturdays at her kitchen table with her sister Nelly who was the woman the character Blanche Deveroe from Golden Girls is based on) They were always slightly drunk on cocktails and funny as hell. I check out Tammy’s house and Becca’s house and Maria’s house and Suzie’s house.

And I say to my kids “That’s where your grandma grew up, and that’s where your great grandma grew up and that’s where your great great grandma lived.” And I know they don’t give a flying fig about any of it. They are just people in pictures and stories I tell about a time they can’t imagine.I show them Maria’s house and tell them how she was the youngest of 10 kids. I show them Lee Anne’s house, her parents were real, true hippies, I show them Tammy’s house and how she lived above a business just like I did. They don’t care much. But someday, if I stay the course, they will have their own stories about the families here in this little village where we live now.   A village my father’s family helped to found on the other side of the city. And when I would drive around with my dad, he would point out which cousin or aunt or uncle lived where. And who else of the old families lived where. So, I pass that on to my kids. I actually live 3 houses down from my second cousin. I know which house my grandma grew up in, and the 3 houses her sisters lived in. Aunt Pearl’s house is my favorite memory. I could walk through it today blindfolded if they haven’t changed the interior.

I cannot escape my family tree as long as I live here, and I don’t want to anyway. I think it is a good gift to give to my kids, to make them feel the connection between their life and the place we live. Our roots are here. And I used to hate that about my family. I wanted to be able to pack up and move. I wanted to travel when I was a child. But that is not what my family did. We did not move. We bought a home and lived in till death do us part. We lived near to our elderly family members so that we can take care of them when they need us. That is what I was raised to do.

I had Pauly and Becca and Tammy and Brookey and Leeanna…my kids have Orson, and Michael, and Rae and Logan and The Other Maeve. I had Old Rose. They have Miss Dot who is herself a great great grandma already. I had Arlene they have Mrs. Duval who will also call to tell me to turn out my lights and that she likes my flowers. For me, looking back it was a wonderful way to be a child. With all those people around who loved me. And now that pattern is repeating for my kids. Every kid my child mentions, I ask what their last name is and where they live. And they know and I generally know the parents. For me, the good outweighs the bad when it comes to living in a small village. My daughters will graduate with the same kids they went to nursery school with.

We are the Village People..so give a wave when you see me in my full head dress…it’s all good they know me around here…..village people 3

Cancer Changes Everything

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R.I.P. Bocci

Last night the girls and I sat eating Bocce’s sauce and meatballs. Bocce is my kid’s best friend’s grandma. She is the italian version of my own grandma. She has 5 kids of her own and is widowed. She lives in an in-law apartment attached to her daughter and son in law’s house. We have known Bocce for 10 years. We love Bocce. And she loves us as evidenced by the sauce. She looks at my kids with the same love  that she has for her own grandkids. She takes my kids raspberry picking and shopping and makes them breakfast. She is family.

And here is another member of my family that has been stricken with cancer. Last year, her daughter, my friend, came over to tell me that Bocce had been diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma. Not the “good” kind either. She is only 75 years old. That seems very young to me. But, Bocce was going to fight. Chemo, radiation, surgery whatever it took. She wasn’t going down without a fight because she has family to take care of. She knows exactly how important she is. And fight she has.

Going through this with my friend has been hard. I know the treatment center she is going to, I know the crisis that come with fighting cancer. I know exactly what it means when they say “you’re cancer free….but we need to do an MRI just to be sure” and then that MRI shows the cancer has spread to the brain.

Which is where we were last night. My kid’s best friend called to tell my kid that they found cancer in Bocce’s brain. He was very upset as was my kid. They talked for awhile and cried. My kid remembers what cancer in the brain means. It was only 3 years ago that my dad, her grandpa had a clean bill of health after 6 months of treatment only to have it show up in his brain and then die a few short months later. But they are kids and they have hope. They were scared, but they don’t know.

I do know. I know that all the hope in the world does not cure cancer. And I also know that I have never given up hope and I’m not going to now. I know the reality of losing people I love to death. No one is immune to death. There is no cure for death. It is a reality of life. I also know the tricks we use to avoid that reality. Sometimes we see death and dying as an inconvenience. Sometimes we refuse to overlook the daily petty irritations to lend our support to the person who needs it. Cancer strips bare the victim of all self righteousness and false pride. In the end cancer leaves the victim in the same innocent, needful state as when  they came into the world. And those of us chosen to be witness to a cancer victim’s life are truly privileged.

The best thing I ever did was set aside myself and my troubles to be there for my father as he went through the process. I have incredible memories and stories from that last year of his life. It was a powerful experience to say the least. The laughing, the crying, the support and the love. I know there are many people who are not equiped to deal with cancer. And that is ok, because I have no doubt a power greater than ourselves puts the people we need in our life at just the right moments so we never walk alone.

Bocce will not walk through this alone. Those of us who love her will not walk through this alone. And I do not see this as yet another tragedy. It is yet another blessing that I am willing and able to love and be there for my friends. It could be just as easy to shut down and ignore. I now know the way death is final and I take nothing for granted. I am not scared to react or act. I am not scared that cancer is yet again changing the landscape of my life and my children’s lives. I will allow it to change us. I will surrender to whatever comes next. I can’t control it, I can’t change it and I can’t cure it. But I can hold my friend’s hand and I can freeze Bocce’s sauce so that she can add to it next year with the tomatoes she grows in her garden. That is my hope.

Drunk Uncles

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gotta love 'em

  

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.