Monday, September 15, 2008

Say Uncle

Uncle Curly is quit the Dude. A very likable Dude. His hair is thick and a strong chalk white, the mustache impeccably groomed. He frames a strong voice and an easy laugh with an impish grin and steel grey twinkling eyes. He wears his clothes with a neat, sharp grace and the welcoming handshake is firm and friendly. He is as classic as a two-tone-57 Chevy and his mind is close to radar gun accurate. He married my mother's older sister 72 years ago. My aunt Cecilia is 94 and Uncle Curly, Ralph, is 97. We kid him that he doesn't look a day over 80. Breaks him up and makes him grin.

This past summer they finally gave up their apartment and moved into a quasi nursing home/assisted living facility.

Saturday my sister bundled up my mother, wheel chair and brought her over for a visit with Ceil and Ralph before the nasty weather approaches and winter sets in.

Now my Aunt Ceil has been deathly ill, near death, on her death bed, on her last legs, almost dead, gasping her last breath, hanging-on-for-dear-life, soon to expire for almost forty years. It's true. Just ask her. Or don't ask her, she will bring it up irregardless of what is being discussed. The woman has had more ailments, allergies, diseases, maladies, anatomical irregularities than anyone .... ever. She has survived, in turns, intestinal abnormalities, Malaria, in-grown toenails, arthritis, Beri-Beri, Black Plague, Blue Plague, influenza, food poisoning, Leprosy (just a long-lasting rash) Halitosis, Dandruff and painful rectal itch. She is slightly homophobic or she would have some how survived AIDS too. My sister and I joke that she is the only woman in the world to have had three hysterectomies.

She will also tell you, whether you ask or not, that she has been the recipient of many miracle cures!!!! Miracles!!! A very strong proof, in her estimation, of the Power-of-Prayer. " How else can you account for me still being here at 94!!" Now, despite her membership in the Saint-of-the-Month Club, we consider the question rhetorical, at best.

Well the times caught up with Aunt Cecilia. The miracles ran out. She has cancer. It is treatable, but she is 94. It is kind of ironic, though, now that she does have a serious condition,
that she will only allow that the cancer causes her to 'feel out of sorts, occasionaly.'

Visits with my Aunt and Uncle and Mother are at best just listening sessions for my sister and I. She listens to the Girls and I listen to Uncle Curly. It gives them all ample opportunity to talk with out interrupting each other.

My Uncle and Aunt had only a daughter and when her marriage failed they, in essence, raised their five grandchildren, who in their turn, have been extremely devoted to their grandparents. I lost track of how many great grandchildren their are and I am sure that there are a few great-greats out there. I don't know how many. Beats me, but ol Ralph remembers all! Names, ages, birthdays, color of wedding dresses, occupations, level of schooling, athletic contest scores, dance recitals, and musical performances. He will unabashedly give up dates, too, even if I don't have a clue who he is talking about. He also remembers with great clarity historical events. He can tell you exactlly where he was at 9-11, the Kennedy assasination, VE-Day, Pearl Harbor and the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

" I was having dinner at the Angel Cafe....It was downtown next to where the Continental Clothing Store was, boy they sure sold swell clothes at the Continental, but they went out of business in 1967 and then they put in that Osco's Drug Store, where the Continental was, not the cafe, see, but of course the Osco's gone now, too, but boy that cafe sure had good food! Gosh, why you could get a pork chop dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and dressing with a vegatable and fruit for a dollar thirty-nine and that came with coffee, all you wanted, but of course they folded in the Depression, not the Continental, that was in 1967, the cafe was out of business right before the war, and they just had the best home-made pies, see, and ... of ....course you know... I still miss that Oscos!"

Two hours of visiting is all the folks can handle before a nap is in the offing. We are getting ready to go and saying good-byes when I mention to Ralph that it is nice they have adjoining rooms. "Ya, " said Ralph, " the staff said they would take out the connecting door and make it like a suite for us, see, but I told them that it was all right. This way I can shut the door and not bother Ceil when I stay up and watch Monday Night Football, see!" He laughs. Ceil assures my mother that she is alright, feels fine and will have a clean bill of health in ten years.

I look at Uncle Curly and he just shrugs and grins. I grin back.

My Aunt had all her prayers answered 72 years ago when she married this curly haired guy with the trim mustache and clean laugh and twinkling steel grey eyes.

Miracles happen.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely story of enduring love.

Randal Graves said...

I can't even fathom being around that long let alone being married for 72 years. That's pretty miraculous.

Mary Ellen said...

I just love the wisdom we receive from the elderly. So many people shut them out when they begin telling their stories, yet I can't get enough of them.

Best wishes to your Aunt Cecilia and your Uncle Curly. I'm not sure if I can make another 37 years before I kill off my husband (he's been home from work for the last two days...he's pushing it), but they give me some hope that it can be done. ;-)

Dusty said...

Now my Aunt Ceil has been deathly ill, near death, on her death bed, on her last legs, almost dead, gasping her last breath, hanging-on-for-dear-life, soon to expire for almost forty years.~ I hope to Gawd this line was supposed to be funny because it cracked me the hell up!

Because that is my mother to a tee. ;p

susan said...

That was a very nice story. Funny old world, isn't it?

DivaJood said...

That's a lovely story! And, oh, by the way. I've tagged you.

Anonymous said...

They sure do, okjimm. I really loved the way you captured your uncle's nostalgic voice...

...boy they sure sold swell clothes at the Continental...

Man, how I loved that phrase. Even at 97, it seems like he never lost his youthful optimism, and it appears to me that he has enough to sustain your aunt, too.

Thanks for sharing this story, man. I'm sorry I didn't get to it sooner.

okjimm said...

Ya, Ol Uncle Ralph is quite the guy..... and Ceil is, ah, extremely interesting.

Dusty, the funny thing is MY MOTHER has had just a ton of Real Ailments..... but hardly talks about it. So Ceil makes up for it with the imaginary ones.

Spartz.... that is just the way the guy talks! He can make it from 1954 to 1982 and back to 1945 in only a few sentences! He really is a great guy!

I should try to write something about my Uncle Olaf, a crazy Norwegian that ran boot-leg booze for Capone in Chicago. He wasn't really my uncle.... but he had married my Grandmother's second cousin, or something, so we just called him Uncle. NOW he was a really interesting story!

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