Saturday, March 15, 2014

Butter Files: Uncle Don

We were returning home from a family trip, seven of us packed like sardines into the Chrysler station wagon.  As our home came into view, my Stepmom was the first to make the connection.

"Oh no!", she groaned.

"What?" we all thought, looking at each other.  Did we forget something?  Did we hit a cat?  Did this have anything to do with us at all?

And then we, too, looked towards our house and we also saw it:  The mile long Winnebago parked  in the middle of our lawn.

"Uncle Don!" we all yelled.  We kids adored Uncle Don.  For one thing, he drove around IN his house, like an eccentric, geriatric hermit crab on permanent vacation.  The freedom of the open road was Uncle Don's.  He went where he liked, he slept where he liked.  I still was having a little trouble working out the mathematics of how a vehicle that big could turn corners but I hoped that one day I could learn to do it and join Uncle Don in his adventurous lifestyle.  The budding opportunist in me recognized that Uncle Don was approaching the age where license renewals were not a given.  At some point the man was going to need a driver.  And a nurse, probably, but that wasn't my problem.  I wasn't very nurse-like.  I did suspect, however, that I would be a very good driver.

What also occurred to me, though, as we pulled into the driveway, was that my gentle, sweet Stepmom who was nice to everybody, didn't seem happy at the prospect of a visit from Uncle Don.  Why?  Wasn't he her uncle, after all?  Didn't he always show up unexpectedly, creating a sense of excitement and possibility?  Didn't he take all of his meals with us, being careful to make us aware of his restrictions so that we didn't accidentally send him into diabetic shock?  Didn't he open his Winnebago  doors to us kids to explore and climb over and didn't we all get the opportunity to sit in the driver's seat, before he suggested we all go back into the house and have a nice long visit and maybe a snack as he was feeling a bit peckish?  And didn't he always, always tell great stories while we waited for his laundry to finish washing?  Sure, they were the same stories he'd told on his last visit and the one before that, but they were mostly good stories, if a bit long winded.  I didn't understand her visceral reaction to his unexpected presence.

Uncle Don had come calling.  How could this be bad news?  Who could understand the mysterious ways of grown ups?  Not me.  I shrugged my skinny shoulders, hopped out of the wagon and raced  across the lawn, calling first turn at the wheel.