Privileges of Being an Uncle… or Aunt

What you can get away with by being THE most important relative? They have to deal with you. I can never be banned! I recall an interaction with the 4 year old nephew. I went to some plastic shopping mall to look for a dumb fun gift, dumber and funner the better for his birthday—he’s a bright kid with bright parents—so I got him a roman legionnaire outfit, some left over kid’s Halloween costume. Complete with shield, sword, helmet, vest and clubbing mace. And a ball or something.

Get to the after party (show up late and leave the big lasting impression, like Santa Claus) and the parents are bagged. Grins frozen on their faces, but they are still trying to force a few flashes for the camera. Balloons, ceremonial cake and twinkly party favors. A basic mess. So uncle shows up with the coolest… who needs a bag? Let’s just rip into this stuff and see how it plays! I get the shield and the mace, and nephew gets the golden sword and the armor outfit. He looks great. Then we start beating on each other. We’ve got really good moves, spinning, smashing, volley, parry. I got him a couple times on the little plastic helmet and he was taking me out with smitely whacks of the jabber. Then his mom walks in. I could hear her little gasp. But I’m not giving up, the kid’s going down.

She says, “Daycare said we’ve had some issues with hitting.”

I say, “Yeah, we’re doing it here instead. Isn’t this awesome?”

That’s when the squirt dropped his sabre and I beat him off with my shield. I got it first and finished him, right in from his mom, with a classic between the elbow and the rib fake goring. He took it like a pro player and crumpled to the carpet with an A+ death rattle pine, “I’m dead! I’m dead!”

Mom says, “You’re not dead—you’re just defeated…”

Kid says, “No, I’m dead, look at my guts….argggggg”

I say, “Oh yeah, look at your guts…you’re a mess, go wash up.”

And he does. One more for uncle’s army.


When I was growing up, I received blessed opportunities to live with all my aunts and uncles. One uncle lead the life of a wealthy downtown single broker. He lived in an apartment and dated, married and divorced many different women until his last wife, with whom I feel he found his equal. He drank a lot and was always joking with people. One day he showed up at our house with a wealthy African sultan or someone. We lived close to the trees, and they were going fishing. He loved to fish, my uncle, and he loved to show off his other world, his humility. He lived fast and died fast. I became a klutz in his presence. He could whip me in basketball, cards, wits, baseball, hockey, chess, and I was his rube at family events. I miss him dearly for the time he dedicated to nieces and nephews. He involved us.

My aunt was my escape. She was a badger of a personality. Spoke her mind, and didn’t let you get away with sh@t. Every summer I would take off to her house, by bus or train. She lived in the northern suburbs of an industry city and worked as a legal secretary. She survived the loss of her first husband, the gallivanting of a second, and raised two adopted children and two iconic show poodles. She had traveled the world with her second husband who stepped in heroically when her first husband was killed in a tragic accident in the infancy of her marriage. She was fire and ice with an infectious laugh. She smoked like a chimney and could drink her brothers under the table. They were all raised as farm kids, working in the field, and fled to the city. I saw her as a nation state. Under her dominion, I could be myself. She demanded it. At the slightest hint that I wasn’t wearing my heart on my shoulder, she would pounce and give me a long impassioned lecture on how I wasn’t living for the moment. She was a self made pillar in her world, a championship curler, avid fisher and camper, bikini clad 7 months of the year, and the belle of the ball. She taught me how to never take crap from anyone.

Uncle drove an SS Camero and worked in aviation. He went to exotic places and grew a big hip afro. His past time was skiing the Alps. He was a major influence on my love for music, ensuring I had a guitar at young age and lots of high speed travel with blasting metal bands. He also lived fast and died young. He was utterly immersed in what he was doing. I forever see him with the game football at an organized meet, running the afternoon sun, with bliss and determination shining from his face.

Aunt G, could write a testimony to life in the box. She was employed in finance, and completely traditional, conservative, rational, unexcitable, prescribed, without vice or addiction, with appropriate measurements of caring, firmness, humor, and length of stay. She and her husband still reside in their first home and travel to casino week once a year, as they ever have. They are rebels in their own minds, but they are foundations within their community. They will always be there, they will always have an open door, they will always be light, and polite, and without stain. This is the aunt who bails out everybody, morally, in tithes, in conscience, in demeanor. She’s the granite room temperature and may have usurped power as the family matriarch from her elder, my mother.

Uncle J, and husband of Aunt G, is a clockwork pragmatist with a incident level of zero. A union man, still with strong ties after retirement, he won after challenging my other uncles to fifty years of drinking. Now he’s quit, the lone survivor, anew in his clarity. Uncle J would call himself a rebel, a black sheep, because of his detachment with family matters. He could take it or leave, and rarely attended. He equipped himself with a basement of entertainment and firmly plopped on his royal sofa. And other than casino vacations, camping with my aunt, or random appearances, he told family organizers to blow off. He likes me, because I relate in not adopting paradigms pre-established. I’ve told the odd family member to blow off, and that gets me a reputation. I also shut up and let him pontificate on world events. Childless, we cousins and our children are his extended family. When in town, we pay our ados, discreetly, venturing down to his lair off the patio, and telling him he has such an awesome reclusion.

What have we learned? Aunts and uncles are your personal escape network. Give them a call and tell them you care. ~ g


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