Posts Tagged ‘Aunts & Uncles’

Cousin C’s Surprise 40th Birthday Party

The whole reason for going to New England for Thanksgiving was for this party. How could I miss an opportunity to get together with iDad’s side of the family? It was well worth the trip.

These aren’t my best photos, but there are a lot of them. You can find the full set on My Gallery, but here are the teasers.

Cousin C was surprised—mostly that his boys could keep a secret this big!

There was a good bit of dancing done by all. I have the blisters to prove it!

In addition to dancing, there might have been some drinking and some goofing around. Especially by my siblings and myself. If you get to the end of the full album, you can find the photos where Sister-In-Law T tried to convince me that I could lick my elbow or touch my elbows behind my back. I’m still convinced I can do it.

Just one word says it all. “Gov-nah!”

And apologies to Aunt K who wanted to stay up and party into the wee hours of the morning. As I explained, most of my adventures happen before midnight. Otherwise I turn into a pumpkin. ;-)

A Luthier’s Poem

A week ago Friday, my Uncle C decided to leave his brains on the front step of his home. (I’ve contemplated for a week about putting that in gentler terms, but death isn’t warm and fuzzy.) I got the call Saturday morning and at that point, the state police hadn’t completely ruled out my Aunt E. She had been plastered that night and had finally gone to sleep. iDad told me that he’d let me know when he knew more, but we all know that I wasn’t going to wait. I booked my flight for that evening and spent a few hours hiking in the afternoon to waste time, then boarded the plane.

I arrived at 5 am in Boston, however, it seems that the baggage handlers don’t start until 5:30 am. By 6 am, I had my bags and was hailing a cab. I apologized to the cab driver for the short fare, who, strangely enough, was a sixty-something Irish man. In Boston, you would expect that to be common, but it threw me for a loop. He apologized to me because he didn’t usually drop people off in East Boston and we became lost. He turned off the meter.

On arrival at Brother K’s workplace, the goal was to use the code to open the garage door. In our typical Secret Squirrel fashion, I was to then take the car keys, use the remote to open the gate, run across the street, drive the car out of the lot before the gate closed, load my bags and shut the garage door. Sound impossible? It nearly was. I kept opening the front door instead of the garage. Once in the garage, I realized I could remove the gate opener, making things much easier. I ran across the road while the garage door was open and my bags were propped up on the sidewalk. I drove the ’87 NIssan out and left it idling on the street. I stood freezing by the garage door ready to close it, but the gate didn’t close. Finally, I pressed the button again hoping that it would close and not just stay open even longer. The gate closed, I returned the remote and closed the garage. Bags in the back of the car, I cranked up the heat and called Brother K. “Everything is closed. How the hell do I get out of East Boston?”

The drive to Portland was very fast, being early on Easter Sunday. I was grateful for the lack of traffic, and police officers because I’d slept about an hour on the plane was was the embodiment of the term “red eye.” I managed to stay awake for an hour after I arrived, then the next thing I knew it was early afternoon.

We spent the day at iDad and P’s house. Brother K and T were there, so was Brother S, aka Sparkles. The Wii provided entertainment for all while we tried to figure out what was going to happen next. Brother K and T headed home while we all slept on it.

Meine Schwester arrived the next morning, so she, I, Sparkles, and iDad headed up to Aunt E’s house. My other two aunts were also there, trying to get Aunt E to write an obituary and do some of the obligatory paperwork. We weren’t really sure what to do when we first arrived. Death is always an awkward situation.

While working on the obit, Aunt E explained a little more about what had happened. It seems that they’d had a big fight and he went out on the front steps and shot himself with his gun. Aunt E didn’t call the cops, instead she called Aunt K who turned around and called the police. By the time the state police arrived, Aunt E had consumed a bit of alcohol. The cops couldn’t find the weapon because he’d fallen on it and they hadn’t moved his body yet, so they treated Aunt E like a suspect. They had to call the coroner out of retirement. The first thing the cop said to her was, “So, did you kill him?”

Aunt E’s reply: “If I had, do you think I would tell you, Inspector Clouseau? At least Peter Sellers was a good actor.” Seriously, a beautiful line, if I’ve ever heard one. Later that day we watched the Pink Panther.

Early afternoon, Aunt K took Aunt E to deliver the obit and stop by the funeral home. This was our opportunity. I had come prepared to do the job if I had to, but iDad took it upon himself. Aunt E hadn’t let anyone clean the front steps, and it had been attracting animals. iDad decided that Uncle C would have wanted him to do it. So while Aunt E was out, iDad did the deed.

Meine Schwester und ich took the opportunity to restock the beer and find some food. We found the little general store at the head of the lake. It consisted of two gas pumps, a sandwich shop, and all the items you’d need to survive in the woods for a week. It looked dirty on the outside, which is what everything in Maine looks like when colored with salt, sand, and plowed snow. When Meine Schwester und ich entered, we immediately ran into a cop and two guys in suits. We looked quizzically at the two guys in suits who seemed very out of place, and the three men looked questionably at us as we don’t exactly look like Mainers any longer.

We raided the store for sandwiches, snacks and beer. There were two flannel clad, steel-toed boot kind of guys sitting at the counter in the back, so the place started to look a little more normal. We loaded the cases of beer into the trunk as a school bus full of kids watched. It seemed like a typical kind of thing to do on a Monday afternoon.

Back at the ranch, we made tuna sandwiches and put out snacks for the guests. I offered iDad a sandwich, but he didn’t seem too keen on eating. He managed to finish the job just before Aunt E returned. We hoped she wouldn’t notice until after we left. I understand that it was all she had left of him, but it wasn’t necessarily the best kind of thing to keep around. And because I know you are wondering; the cops and the coroner take the body, but they don’t clean up. The do, however, leave an inventory list of everything they took. Aunt E was quite disturbed by this.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the basement, drinking and trading stories. Aunt E was surprised by what odd stories we have from our childhood. For example, we remember Aunt E and Uncle C as being the ones who had a tarantula that they would set on their shoulder and answer the door when solicitors stopped by. Of course, this was only possible in winter when it was hibernating and slow. We remember their siamese cats and being quite frightened of them. And we remember watching “On Golden Pond” on the Laserdisc player sometime in the mid 80’s, although we always confuse it with Betamax.

Aunt E and Uncle C are fabulous musicians. They made a CD of folk music. I love when one of their songs pops up when playing my iPod on shuffle. Aunt E and Uncle C played their guitars and sang at both of my brother’s weddings, so my brothers have fond memories of visiting as adults. Uncle C was an accomplished luthier, and in the basement there were three guitars that he’d recently finished. The bar and finished basement were an example of his fine carpentry work alongside the large deck and gazebo. We’d all known him as a physician’s assistant in the emergency room, but I hadn’t realized he’d spent a long time in the Army and that he and Aunt E had met while they were stationed in Germany.

I learned a lot more about Aunt E and Uncle C that day. For example, Aunt E had always felt like an outsider in her family and realized later that it was because she was a republican in a house of democrats. I’d forgotten that Aunt E has a horse that she keeps at a nearby stable. They are still suckers for all kinds of pets and have a couple of cats, and three adorable dogs. The dogs seemed pretty stressed about the whole situation.

To make matters better or worse, it happened to be Easter weekend. Aunt K had been sick that weekend, so she hadn’t made the Easter dinner she’d planned. Instead, she cooked it up for us that evening. It was an awful reason to be together, but I was grateful to be able to share an Easter dinner with my family.

A visitor dropped off three large buckets of KFC. Since we had dinner planned already, we bagged and froze most of it. The family seemed quite amused at my attempt to bag the chicken with the same workflow I use to pick up dog poo. I turned the ziplock bag inside out and placed my hand inside. I grabbed a handful of chicken and turned the bag out around it. It did not prove to be very effective other than evoking twenty minutes of gut-wrenching laughter. Truthfully, that is probably what we all needed anyways.

Always the clown and looking for a cheap laugh, I couldn’t resist. iDad made a comment to some guests about how “We all think that we are the only normal ones in the family.” I turned around and said, “I don’t think I’m the normal one. I KNOW I’m the normal one.” Of course I know that none of us can really claim that, least of all me, who seemed to think all day Sunday that maybe Uncle C would rise from the dead for a surreal Easter miracle.

As much as we could, we did what we normally do. We avoided what hurt and spoke “of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax, of cabbages, and kings.” We took what we could in stride and buried the rest. Until iDad opened Uncle C’s woodworking shop and found this sign hung above the door.

It is an old luthier’s poem that reads, “I was alive in the forest; I was cut by the cruel axe; In life I was silent; In death I sweetly sing.” Aunt E had burned the words into a block of wood for him, and he’d hung it so that it could be read when the door was opened. It brought the room to tears and let out the emotions we’d been blissfully ignoring. I can’t think of words that could say it better than that poem.

It was late and time to leave. We said our goodbyes and trekked through the spring mud to the car. Sparkles had gone home a little while earlier, so Meine Schwester, iDad, and I started the hour and a half drive home. About ten minutes before arriving, drunk iDad, having finished a bucked of KFC, blurts out from the back seat, “I didn’t know what to do with him, so I put him in the trunk.”

“Are you kidding?!?!”

What do you say to that? The remains of our uncle’s brain matter were double bagged in the trunk of the car. “I didn’t want her to find the bag, so I couldn’t just leave it,” justified iDad. “But now I don’t know if I should put him out with the trash on Wednesday or bury him in the backyard.”

What is the right answer? The police and the coroner didn’t seem to care enough to clean it all up, so what is a person to do? We didn’t really have a good answer, and Uncle C was still there when iDad dropped me off at the airport the next day. I made sure to put my bags in the back seat so as not to disturb him. Lucky for us, they were having a cold snap.

Only my family, I swear. A week later, I asked iDad about it and he made some reference to tulips. I guess tulips are better than pushing up daisies. Meine Schwester chided me for bringing it up. She’d convinced herself it was all a bad dream.

We all wish it was a bad dream.