Say It Isn't So

Monday, October 24, 2005


When I was growing up, I had two favourite uncles, amongst several wonderful uncles. One was my father's brother, and one was my mother's brother. Both were veteran's of the second World War, and both were quite the characters. They had a knack for making me laugh.

Number One Uncle was a victim of what they called "shell shock". It seemed that he went off the deep end, the full details of which I was never privy to. I wasn't born until after this war, so when I first got to know him he was in a sanitorium just outside of Montreal. I remember when we would go out there to visit with him we would pass by the Lachine Rapids. This is how young I was. My mother would say "Look, see the rabbits", and I would see those white rabbits out there in the water, thinking that they must be hanging out on the rocks out there.

They gave my favourite uncle a lobotomy! Cut a nerve in the front of his brain that dissected the right lobe from the left. This was information that I was allowed to have, and even at that time I thought it was horrid. But, it got my uncle his freedom again, and for that I was happy. He went home to live with Grammy and Grandpy. They lived 500 miles away, in the Maritimes. Granpy died shortly thereafter, I don't think there was any relationship between my uncle's return and my Granpy's stroke but you never know. I remember visiting when he was bedridden, and I know he was happy to see me, and I was happy to see him. It was deemed however that I was too young to attend the funeral. He departed this world on Christmas Eve. My uncle looked after Grammy. He worked at the local hardware store and would take her to Church every Sunday. He could play the piano like he had years of training but it was all in his head. You could hum a tune to him and he would start playing it with all 10 fingers called into action creating cords and all. When he finished playing, it would be time for dinner. He would have the same stories to tell. Everyone else would be telling him to be quiet, but I would just sit there listening in total rapture. His stories were always the same with a few subtle variations. He was the bastard son of King George the VI, banished to the M(ouse) family was a recurring theme. Occassionally, he was the bastard son of Franklin D. Roosevelt, but that one was rare. He used to write letters to the Royal Family complaining about what they had done to him. When he wrote to the President with similar complaints, he became a person non grata at the border. This did not last long though, all the border guards knew him. His sister, my aunt, married an American (a large number of the women in my family marry Americans :) so he was a frequent guest. Another favourite theme was how he would sit on satellites. He would talk to aliens while sitting on these satellites looking back at the earth. What was amazing was that this story started long before there were 1000's of them up there! He let me, as a 14 year old, drive his 1965 Chrysler Newport across the world's longest covered wooden bridge. He let me take it up to 105mph on the transcanada highway while he and another of my crazy uncles sat in the backseat. I let off on the gas some, when I felt the wheels leave the earth. My best friend was in the front seat and we all had a hoot! He was insane, and I loved him for it. For a long time I thought that this lobotomy had caused him to be permanently insane, but then came the 70's. Drugs were everywhere, and they had them for schizophrenics too. Voila, my uncle was normal after all. It was kind of depressing, while at the same time wonderful. He is still playing the piano!

My mother's brother was the boyfriend of my mom's best friend. They were expected to get married. My uncle went off to war. Came back when it was all over to find my mom's best friend married to another man. So when the Korean war started he came stateside, and enlisted. It had to be better than being miserable in Canada, eh? When that war was over he stayed in Vermont. He became an antique collector, something he sort of got into over in Korea. I remember he had a really nice old Model T. It was just one step up from riding a horse, and lots of fun. He went back to Canada around retirement time, but he didn't retire. He would travel around all the old farmsteads in the Eastern Townships and offer to clean out their barns and sheds. The antique business carried on. My mom's best friend (they remained close) became a widow, and after a time she started in after my uncle. Pursued him relentlessly. Well, he finally caved in, and married her. He was 65 and finally happy. Life is good!


At 6:27 AM, October 26, 2005, Blogger Nerdine said...

Nietzsche once said : Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule.

I guess the "insanity" label is commonly used on people like you and me who just thinks "outside the box".
Sounds like you had a blast with your uncles!

At 2:08 PM, October 26, 2005, Blogger mdmhvonpa said...

Your piano uncle sounds quite sane in comparison to many people I am exposed to on a daily basis ...


Post a Comment

<< Home