UNCLE WHO?

Calling Uncle Bob – Have you ever faced a difficult situation when you had to choose between sorting it out yourself, or asking someone else for an easy fix? What did you choose — and would you make the same choice today?


I do not have an uncle named Bob. I had Uncles called Jack, Abe, Herman, Louis, Mickey, and Sam. I still have an Uncle Sam, come to think of it, but I’m pretty sure he’s not related by blood.

I cannot imagine under what circumstances I would have called any of these uncles to help me with anything at any point in my life, not even when they were still alive. Their current lack of aliveness makes them even less likely to be helpful in a crisis than formerly. It’s hard for me to picture big, bluff Uncle Abe, the guy who used to toss me in the air to make me giggle and scream, giving me advice on Men, Marriage, Career … or how to fix a computer.

uncle-sam

Or even asking him to read something I wrote to see if he liked it.

He wouldn’t have liked it. None of them would have liked it. Or understood it. Their brows would have furrowed and I am sure they would have found my interest in Such Matters perturbing and disturbing. At the very least.

So here’s the scenario.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

“Hello?”

“Uncle Herman, hi. It’s Marilyn.”

“Who?”

“Marilyn. Dorothy’s daughter.”

“Oh, Dorothy. How is she? Is she coming to visit? I haven’t seem my little sister since … ” Long pause.

“Last month,” I offer helpfully. I’m nothing if not helpful.

“Yes,” he agrees.

“Uncle Herman, I have a problem. My laptop screen seems to have an intermittent connection to the keyboard and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Can I bring it over and have you take a look?”

“Sure Bubbala. Your Aunt just made a big batch of the jello you like so much.”

I really did love the jello Aunt Ethel made. It was never too hard or too soft — always perfect. And she used bunny rabbit-shaped molds so the jello wriggled and jiggled, as jello should. The taste of family.

Jello notwithstanding, I cannot imagine a positive outcome to this encounter. Although in his day, Uncle Herman was good with machines, especially sewing machines (he was a cutter and tailor, as were most of the men in my mother’s family in that generation), computers were … well … not his thing.

He could give it a good whack, which might cure the problem or finish off the computer forever. A simple, fast, and permanent fix. Not exactly what I had in mind, but a fix, nonetheless.

Or they could have served me jello and we would talk about this and that, forgetting the reason for the visit because seriously, when you have a problem, do you call your family to help you out? Really?

And as a final note of caution, quick fixes are rarely good fixes. Just an observation.

HAIL ODDFELLOW

Cousin It — We all have that one eccentric relative who always says and does the strangest things. In your family, who’s that person, and what is it that earned him/her that reputation?


We live in “anything goes” times. Who is eccentric versus who is normal is entirely a matter of taste and opinion.

Time has thinned the herd of my family so there are few cousins from whom to choose, weird or otherwise. At least ones I know personally. There are a bunch of second and third cousins I have never met except on Facebook, but I don’t think they count.

SeidenFamily 1963

Maybe I am the weird cousin. Not because I’m especially unusual, but just because I’ve made choices no one else in my generation made. If I were young now, my choices wouldn’t even be noteworthy.

What is weird? I went to live in another country. I was married and divorced more than twice. In my generation that was “something,” but I doubt it’s anything now.

So. If I am not particularly weird, who is? I know I’ve been somewhat unexpected and perhaps a bit unpredictable, but genuinely eccentric?

What would that mean, really? What would I have to do to stand out from the crowd?

I think being alive is outstanding.

In this generation, normal might be the new unusual. Whatever normal is.

ANGEL COMES OUT

Based on the story that is sad, painful and true, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Angel was a handsome boy who had a secret he desperately needed to keep. By the age of 13 he knew what he liked and by 16, he had a boyfriend. He spent a lot of time with his boyfriend and his cover was always that he was working on his homework. No one knew that his homework included kissing another teenage boy.

When Angel would return home from his after school “homework sessions,” he would have his boyfriend drop him off 2 blocks from his house so his father would not see him kiss his boyfriend good-bye. One day, however, his father was behind him on the street and saw the boys from a short distance away. When Angel realized his father was watching he told his boyfriend to leave immediately.

“Are you going to be OK?” the boyfriend asked.

“I don’t know but you won’t be if you don’t get the hell out of here,” Angel cried. He grabbed his guitar and got out of the vehicle. His boyfriend sped away. He knew his father hated gay boys. When he was 13 the father told him if he ever found out he was gay, he would put him in the emergency room. He feared that might include his friend too.

Angel’s father drove his car across the road to where Angel was standing, got out and shouted at the boy. “Who the F is that?  Are you a faggot?” Angel said nothing and this angered his father. “I’m going to ask you again, are you a faggot?” the dad repeated. Angel could not deny being gay, but he knew admitting to it could actually be deadly. So his father hit him full force in the chest and asked again.  Angel said nothing and took a beating right there in the street. No one came to stop the father as he punched the boy over and over. Finally, the father threw Angel’s guitar in his truck and ordered the boy to get in. It seemed he drove 100 miles an hour the two blocks home.

Once inside the kitchen, Angel was backed up against the stove as the father again demanded to know if he was gay. Angel remembered the emergency room threat of three years earlier and said nothing. That did not save him. His father wailed away on the boy’s face and chest and arms and stomach. Angel became sick from the pain as the father kept it up.

“How can you do this to me?” the father shouted in extreme anger. At that Angel had to respond.

“How can I do this to you?” Angel cried out through his pain. “Look what you are doing to me right now.” The boy had suffered through a beating that mere words could not adequately explain as the father continued to batter him on his handsome face and anywhere else he could reach.

Angel then started inching his way toward the sink while he was being hit. He knew his father would demand his phone and there were definitely pictures he did not want his father to see. There was a bucket of water in the sink and his plan was to drop the phone in the bucket. He did not get there. The father demanded the phone. After he took it from the boy he sent him up to his room. Soon the father arrived in the room and declared in an angry voice, “You will stop this. I did not raise a faggot in this house. Is that understood?”

Angel swallowed his pride. He was sick and bleeding and could not take another punch. “Yes,” he cried. At that the father left the room but warned he would be back soon. He had not seen the phone pictures yet, and had to go with Angel’s stepmom to pick up the step sisters.

The boy cried. He cried like he had never cried in his entire 16 years. He was in pain, he was bleeding and he was called a “faggot.” To Angel, being called a faggot was as bad as the beating.

He knew he had to get out. He could not call the police. His father was a cop. So he searched frantically for an abuse hotline number he got at school. He stumbled down the stairs and called. Shaking and in fear, he tried to urgently explain what happened before his father returned. The hotline operator sounded like an angel to the boy and asked if there was somewhere safe he could go. Angel mentioned the parents of a person he recently met. They got the mother on the phone and explained the circumstance.  Angel was instructed to pack some clothes and leave.  The friend’s mother would meet him a few blocks away on the corner.

Angel threw a few items in a bag and ran for his life.  His face was bleeding.  His stomach and chest were in severe pain and his legs were weak.  He tried to run but his legs did not seem to want to go.  It was the longest journey of his life. He wanted to go faster.  “Please get me there.” he thought.  When the corner was in sight, Angel willed himself forward.  He had to make it.  He truly felt his life depended on it.  But when he got to a liquor factory parking lot, he stumbled and fell to the ground.  Battered, bruised and bleeding, Angel could fly no further. There he lay wondering what would become of him.

His friend and her mother spotted him from the corner and ran to his aid. They helped him to her car and took him home. There she did what Angel could not. She called the police. They came and took one look at Angel and called for an ambulance. Angel’s father had successfully carried out his promise. He put his gay son in the emergency room.

The story does not end there. Angel recovered from his injuries. Things got better for him. In future years he was able to forgive the father who could have beaten him to death if there had been a little more time. Eventually, the father realized what he had done to a son he thought he loved, and asked for forgiveness. Now as a young adult, Angel has the courage to tell that painful story, because there is a lesson in it for teens facing danger just for kissing someone of the same-sex.

Note:  I did not know Angel or speak to him in advance.  After this story was written, I found him and asked him to read it.  He had not thought about it for a while so I felt bad for bringing it to him.  He said it was OK, and liked it.  “You captured the day pretty on point.” If you wish to see Angel tell the complete story himself, you can find it below. For more thoughts on A Coming Out Story and the Trevor Project, check out this past article.

THE FAMILY AS WE MEET

Delayed Contact – How would you get along with your sibling(s), parent(s), or any other person you’ve known for a long time — if you only met them for the first time today?


How would I get along with them today? If I had just met them?

96-Matthew-HouseOnPaloAlto-1953

Probably not well. Mom might be an interesting person to talk to about her experiences in the thirties and forties. Her cynical take on politics and the way the world was going. Her disdain for government and the people who run it. Her dislike of “the old boys network” and the “old boys” in it were eternally amusing. She had a sardonic way of expressing herself that I think I have inherited. I miss her. She always had a unique “take” on whatever was going on.

I loved my brother though we had little in common but DNA. Our interests were so different. Our ways of dealing with the world almost diametrically out of phase. We shared a common understanding of how hard it had been to grow up in our world and come out unbroken.

96-MatthewAndMarilynApr1948

It’s a bit of a moot point whether or not we were unbroken, but we hid the damage well and managed to have productive lives. We were deeply supportive of each another. Yet I wonder. If we hadn’t been born to the same parents, would we have ever sought each other out? If Matt had lived longer — and so wish he had — we might have discovered more common ground as we matured. I wish we’d had the chance.

My sister was the odd child. Socially awkward and very much her mama’s darling, I think she watched me — especially me –with much envy and resentment, never understanding what it had cost me to break free of the family so young (I was barely 16) and go it on my own. I know she found me a hard act to follow … but she found life a hard act. By her mid 30s, she had retreated not only from the family, but from the world. She was a modern-age hermit and as far as I know, still is. Drug-addicted and lost, somewhere. She does not leave a forwarding address.

I’m always a bit envious of close-knit families, though I wonder what is hidden in there, what lies beneath the cheery surface. Maybe everything is just as you see it. Maybe not. It’s a bit late for me to find out because so much of my family has passed.

Maybe next time around the wheel.

THE SHORT LIST

To-Do? Done!

Quickly list five things you’d like to change in your life. Now, write a post about a day in your life once all five have been crossed off your to-do list.


VeganWitches“What a world, what a world” cried the witch. “I’m melting, melting.” And she melted. Referring back to her previous statement, it is quite a world and certainly could use some adjusting. So, off the top of my early morning head, I’d like to say this about that.

1. Whichever dog is piddling on the rug in the morning, it isn’t going to get you more biscuits, better food, an upgraded position on the sofa, or your own laptop. If we ever find out which one(s) of you are doing it, a good thumping is more likely. Stop it before I catch you because … to quote another movie big shot: “You won’t like me when I’m angry.”

2. Our television is 13 years old. It works. But it’s falling behind technologically. If any of you WordPress pixies feel inclined to drop by during the night, take away the huge old one and replace it with a nice, sleek, shiny new one, I would certainly not object.

3. Surely at least one wish grantor at your headquarters is in charge of paving? Because our driveway is a disaster and winter is coming. New asphalt please?

4. Speaking of winter coming and driveways … emphasis on the “drive”  … we could really use some kind of SUV to deal with the bad weather. We can’t afford one, but now that you are so spectacularly successful, maybe you’ve got a spare vehicle lying around you might send our way? Swap you for our 2003 Sunfire. It’s a cute little thing, but useless in the winter. Only has 115,000 miles on it and it’s bright yellow.

5. A general bump in income would be appreciated. We worked hard. Combined, the two of us worked for more than 80 years. It’s sad finding ourselves in such straits. We don’t need to be rich, though we wouldn’t object … but not poor either would be nice. I’d like to have more money than month. A little spare. Some discretionary funds.

Thank you all very much. I’ll be getting back to my coffee now. You want a cup? Have a seat. I’ll go get it.

Oh, and please make sure all those “gifts” are tax-free.

EPILOGUE: The Day After Tomorrow

Monday morning, I will get up and pad out to my living room in my bare feet, I will not step in a cold pool of dog pee. I will turn on my brand-new television which will have much better sharpness and clarity than the current one. I will not have to clean my glasses because things are a bit fuzzy.

I will gaze contentedly out my picture window where my new SUV will be waiting for me on my smoothly paved driveway. All our stuff will be packed because as soon as we finish a quick breakfast, we’re going away for a couple of days … now that we can afford a night or two in a nice bed and breakfast on the Cape.

Thanks for everything. See you in a few days.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT WILL GET YOU

Hand-Me-Downs – Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.


The family

The most important stuff I got handed down to me — other than my DNA, which has turned out to be a mixed bag of goodies — were attitudes. Culture. Habits. Taste. Sayings and a few useful tips.

My mother gave me a love for books, as well as an expensive — nearly lethal — appreciation for the finer things in life. Without, sadly, leaving me the money to afford them. She also left me her far left knee-jerk liberal world view and a saying I have never quite escaped: “For everyone, there’s someone. Even you.”

Thanks mom. You have no idea how much confidence that’s given me.

Dad? Not my favorite person, but he did pass along some good jokes and knowledge of how to tell one without blowing the punchline. He also taught me how to throw a meal together using whatever I have in the fridge. Because knowing “what goes with what” is the most important thing to know when you do a lot of cooking.

He also bequeathed me a firm — grim — determination to be as unlike him as I could be. Plus one great saying: “It’s not what you don’t know that will get you in the end. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.”