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
They were telling funny stories
Saying all those things
They ain't said
Since the last time
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.