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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hey! That geezer is my uncle...

I have an uncle. I have more than one uncle, actually, I'm betting my two readers probably do as well. This, in and of itself, is hardly blog worthy. I have three living uncles, two of them are idiots. This probably isn't news either, the world if full of idiotic, possibly inbred uncles, aunts and cousins. Especially cousins. Why is that, anyway?

It is my non-idiot uncle that takes up much of my thoughts lately. He's been around forever. Conservative but fun. An aviation pioneer with a niece who hates to fly. He was married to my mother's sister. But he never drifted away after she died. He remarried but he was still so much a part of my family. This always puzzled me, as HE was the rich one. I could have understood it if we had the money but he seemed to like us anyway. I always attribute ulterior motives whenever possible, btw. Sometimes I have to really stretch to find them, but mark my words, I will.

He sold the home he had built, thus depriving us of the free swimming pool, and moved to an assisted living facility in another county about five years ago. Not for himself, for his wife. He had a lovely two bedroom apt on the grounds, she was in the "assisted living" section. I've never been quite sure what "assisted" living is. Living is pretty much an is you is or is you ain't? proposition. Yeah, yeah, semantics, I know.

Well, anyway, last October I was sitting in my jammies in my living room in what was basically the middle of the night. There was the morning news. Which starts at what, 2:30am now? Every time some local station bumps it news up a half an hour the other two stations bump theirs up an hour. The local morning news used to start at 7am. Then it was 6:30, 6: 5:30, 5, 4:30 (yes, seriously, FOUR THIRTY IN THE FREAKING MORNING). So I'm looking at the news and the anchor is doing a story on some poor old WWII vet who left his home in Orange County to run an errand and never came back. There's a picture. Nice looking old guy, white hair, wait a minute? What did he say the guy's name was?

There's nothing like seeing your relative's pictures on the news.

After many phone calls between myself and my cousin and much angst my missing uncle was found two days later at an Indian casino in the desert. We though it was pretty cool, immediately adapting the "all's well that end's well" outlook. My cousin was not quite as impressed. My formerly vibrant uncle was terminally ill, had no memory, didn't remember his own grandchildren, needs constant care, almost died on Christmas Eve...

Armed with this sad knowledge my father picked me up on Sunday and we drove down for our last visit with the doddering, drooling, dying old man.

I would venture to say I was closer to death with my father behind the wheel than my uncle is now. My father has developed a disturbing tendency to drive while reading. He was not wearing his hat. Old men who drive like that should have to wear hats, by law. "Dad! Give me the map, I'll look." "Well, look at that page, there." "Watch the damn road, I've got the map." "You're on the wrong page." "Jesus, stay in ONE lane, give me the damn map!" And my personal favorite "How far is Imperial Highway anyway?" "We missed it, Dad." "Missed it? We haven't passed the 605 yet!" "We passed it about 20 minutes ago, Dad." "We DID? It must have been closed for construction." No, it wasn't closed for costruction, Cal Trans got wind of the fact you're on the road and changed the signs.

We finally arrived, in some semblance of one piece, before noon. After wandering around for 20 minutes, with our jaunty "HELLO! MY name is..." tags pasted to our chests we finally located my missing uncle in the dining room. This was after we'd been told "he's in the hospital," "he moved back to his apartment" and finally "Who? Are you sure you have the right place?" He was pleased as could be to see us, knew precisely who we were, wasn't drooling and invited us to join him for lunch, asking the helper in the dining room to please add us to his ticket. It was a brunch. Salad bar, hot entrees, desserts. Nice spread. The dining room resembles the first class lounge on the Titanic. After hugs and such I head for the food. Corned beef hash. Scrambled eggs. Blintzes with raspberries. Potatoes, stuffing, gravy.

The food was fine but there was something not quite right. I figured it out the next day. It was the softest stuff I'd ever eaten. There was stuffing but no turkey. The blintzes were limp. For heaven's sake, I qualify for the senior special at Denny's and I still have all my own teeth, I'm betting at least 50% of these people do too. How about you actually toast that bread instead of using brown food coloring and setting it under the heat lamp?

But the company was delightful and no one was getting ill so I was pretty much okay with it. The visit was superb though. Seems that in the time he had left his apartment on that October Monday morning and turned up at Casino Morongo on Wednesday he'd been to Mexico. Unfortunately, he'd missed the news a few years ago about needing a passport to visit Mexico. After a hilarious retelling of his misadventure in Tijuana and how he finally got back across the border we adjourned to the patio. My cousin was NOT amused by this. She sternly told us this wasn't funny. Oh yes, it was. The guy's 92 for Gawd's sake, and he made it back in one piece and didn't lose much at the casino. Lighten UP! My boys, btw, thought the Mexican detour he made even MORE awesome than the siren call of tribal slot machines.

Okay, so he's NOT the picture of perfection. He's not exactly sure why he went to Mexico. He's not exactly sure how he got back. He thinks he still has his car keys. And his pilot's license. Apparently he now wears a sort of ankle tag which alerts the facility as to when he wanders out the door, which he does. Frequently. Well, sure, he's spent 92 years being able to leave the damn house whenever he felt like it. His health is better but it's definitely failing. And he had one HELL of a toot. Good for you, Uncle!

I hope I'm putting the pedal to the metal and heading for cheap tequila when I'M 92.

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