Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tales of Uncle Chuck

My uncle Chuck's funeral was this past weekend, and Lyle Lovett summed up my feelings in a song he wrote over 15 years ago:

I went to a funeral
Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain't seen
Since the last time
Somebody died

Everybody talking
They were telling funny stories
Saying all those things
They ain't said
Since the last time
Somebody died

I served as a pallbearer, honored to be asked. Pallbearers pay their respects to the deceased first, then wait in a room while the other mourners say goodbye. While waiting in the room, my cousin Chip told several stories about his father that I thought I would post, as I think they're too good to be lost in time.

My uncle was born to a wealthy, or once-wealthy but still pretending, family. He had a habit of getting expelled from the private schools in which he was enrolled, and it was during one of these enforced vacations that, rather than immediately tell his parents he was thrown out of school, Chuck decided to enjoy his freedom for a while. As a way of evading truant or police officers who might question what a teenager was doing driving around in a convertible all day, Chuck asked a friend whose late father had been a doctor to forge him a note saying that he had the measles. The ruse worked for a while until the unexpected happened: Chuck came down with the measles. Going for treatment, the inevitable questions came up: how does one get the measles twice? and how does one get treated by a doctor who's been dead for a couple of years?

I also heard the story of how my uncle messed up his nose. Apparently, he and some friends were having an impromptu kegger in the woods. They didn't have a tap but weren't deferred. They instead popped the cork and then poured all the beer from the keg into a small metal tub, dipping their cups into it punchbowl style. But the police raided the party and everyone scattered, with Chuck putting the tub of beer in the back of his convertible.

Trying to stay ahead of the cops, Chuck took the highway's curves at high speed. From the driver's seat, he reached back to steady the tub and keep the beer from spilling out, only to crash and smash his face against the windshield and break off (?)/ cut off (?) the end of his nose. He then dropped his nose in his cup of beer and drove to the hospital to see if they could reattach it. At the hospital, they put the nose in a sterile metal cup until ready for reattaching. This was in the 1950s, so plastic surgery was still fairly primitive, and from that day forward, Chuck had a nose that was always "off." Something else he had from that day: the metal cup from the hospital. It was used as the bathroom cup for many years afterwards.

"What?" my cousin Chris said. "I drank from that cup and it had his nose in it?"

"That's what he said."

"Keep in mind," my cousin Bill said "our father liked to embellish. A lot."

RIP, Uncle Chuck.


Bob Fingerman said...

Good anecdotes. Good post.

wpbooks said...

My condolences. Sorry for your loss, THM! Did you ever drink from the cup?

the hanged man said...

Thanks guys.

Never drank from the nosecup, thank God. It's odd - I never thought to ask my Uncle how he got a misshapen nose. As a kid I was too intimidated and as an adult I too well mannered.

wpbooks said...

The thing about reading something like this entry, especially with no progeny, and since I'm the 'odd' Uncle of a few nieces and nephews, is that I automatically project myself into it, and picture their blogs after my demise. I know it's about your Uncle, THM...but as one too, I wonder what behaviors of my own will leave impressions. Your blog is a deft word of warning perhaps, as well as an eloquent remembrance. And you're sure you never sipped from the cup, even by accident....

Iva said...

Have you sent a copy of this blog to any of the Conlon's? They might like to see it.

Katie said...

OK, Aunt Iva, one of the Conlons has now seen it and I do love it. I too have heard all the stories and the tales kept getting taller as we got older. I hadn't heard the part about the cup either, and I had the same reaction as Christopher as I was reading it. My Mom still has that cup in her bathroom. I'm wondering if(hoping) she has another story about where it came from. Thank you for your services as pall bearer. It meant a lot to us to have you there.

the hanged man said...

I was honored to be asked to be a pallbearer and saddened that it was necessary.

One of my earliest distinct memories of your father was him telling you (Katie) a bedtime story, either Goldilocks or Red Riding Hood, but improvising on the story, adding characters to it (including you and me) and lots of funny asides.

I think it was the first time I had heard someone riff and add jazz-like improvisation to a story. I recall being surpised he was able to do it - I hadn't heard anything like that before.

Lisa said...

I do have to admit that I never actually heard the "full" story...I just knew that Daddy was in a car accident and lost the end of his nose. I don't even remember the metal cup that Mommy apparently still has and thank God I refrain from drinking beer from anything metal, with the exception of a can! Thank you, John, for the smile.....and let them eat cake!!

Katie's Daughter :P said...


That's the giggle-water cup, right? And it had his NOSE in it?? D:

Katie's Daughter :P said...

Also, do you have any more stories about Poppy? I have to write a narrative about death for my Creative Writing class and I wanted to write about how I kept on giggling to myself at Poppy's funeral cause of all those funny stories I've heard. But I can't even keep them all straight in my head. XP There are just way too many, and I keep getting them confused with stories about Pudgey.

the hanged man said...

Check with your Uncle Chip or your Uncle Bill. I think they might have more stories about Poppy.

The only other story that comes to mind is that, for several years in a row at Christmas time, Juleann would discover the Christmas tree lying on the floor with Chuck passed out beneath it. He had a habit of bumping into the tree, knocking it over on himself and then not being able to escape. So he slept there.

swimcoach14 said...

John - your blog is perhaps the most accuraate rendition of the 'nose' story that we'll ever get! Keep in mind that the story changed every time someone asked him about his nose. And for the record, if you ever used the upstairs bathroom - you used the 'nose cup'! Next time I'm @ Mom's, I want the cup. I'll proudly display it with the 'dinner bell'