In Daddy’s Day – Uncle Joe and the Nun
Last week, my Dad
threatened promised to tell us some stories from his youth, ostensibly in an effort to help other people raise better kids than his. I sure hope that works out for everyone.
In case you missed it, here is a
defense disclaimer comment my dad wrote about his post last week:
This blog stuff is Michelle’s thing and I didn’t really want to do any commenting, but did you guys hear what Michelle wrote? She acts like she didn’t ask me to write this junk down. She did so.
She had an entire conversation with her mother and me about her sister getting lost, but all she could remember was what she was talking about; some stranger’s kid that was temporarily misplaced, big deal. And might I add, pretty dad gum typical. Now don’t get me wrong, everyone loves Michelle and she’s a smart girl, but frankly she’s always had the attention span of a chicken. I know, we had her tested; it was the fourth grade, I think. What really surprised us was that she outscored 4 of the 10 chickens. The doctor insisted that we not worry because we had another daughter and that children are just like pancakes, the first one never turns out right.
When I gave her this story, (as she had requested), she immediately fixated on the peeing part. After I talked her off the ledge I was able to explain that it was just a metaphor. The peeing represented misbehaving, which she, and her sister, had artfully learned not to do in front of their parents, but, we learned much later, were apparently doing everyplace else. (Remember, misbehaving, not peeing)
Her mother also got a little fixated on part of the story. With her it was with the beer in the food court. Well, I did take a little poetic license with that situation. Everyone that knows my good wife knows she doesn’t drink beer, she drinks whiskey. Somehow I thought the beer sounded a little less judgmental.
I told you all my stories are based on fact. And it’s in there, but also remember, I said it may be fluffed out with some rumor and gossip. Well, brethren, that’s in there too. So if it pleases you, I invite you to sit back, put your tongue in your cheek with me, and from time to time, read a little more…
Thank you, Daddy.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s my Dad, Tom, with a memory of his Uncle Joe:
I was about eight years old when the seed was planted. That would make my older brother ten. We were visiting our relatives in Pennsylvania, a trip we made a couple times each year, and which represented the only family vacations we ever took.
The relatives we were visiting are from my father’s side. They live in the small town of Saint Mary’s, which is nicely tucked in the mountains of north central Pennsylvania’s Dutch country. These German-speaking mountain people provided me with some of my fondest childhood memories; their lives, their stories, their examples have helped shape my life. They were, and are, full of life, full of love, and full of beer.
I think it’s important, at this time, to establish blame for what will subsequently happen. It all started with my Uncle Joe; therefore, any judicious reader will understand that the blame clearly lies with him and are hopefully reading this with that outcome in mind. Don’t blame me, I told you I was only eight and far too young to possess my full faculties; and therefore, any of the responsibility. Uncle Joe, on the other hand, was a full grown up man, and I’m sure he fully understood what he was doing.
My Uncle Joe was a truly funny man, and I loved him. He was so full of laughter and tales and mischief. All the kids loved to be around him, although none of us fully trusted him. We knew any one of us could fall prey to one of his pranks at any time, and we often found ourselves in the middle of one without even knowing it, until it was too late. As time goes by, maybe I can share some of those pranks with you. I remember them all, most of them left me laughing, some left me crying.
On this particular day, Uncle Joe was sitting in his usual spot at the end of the kitchen table. His chair was positioned so he could easily reach the refrigerator without getting up. He wore no shirt and was eating raw hamburger (horseradish its only condiment) straight from the refrigerator. It’s important to tell you that Uncle Joe was the hairiest person that I have ever personally met, and that his back seemed to always itch. So, Uncle Joe says to me, “Itch my back”. At eight, this always cracked me up. I knew that his back already itched and what he really wanted was for me to scratch his back. But, either way you say it, I didn’t want anything to do with his hairy back; at least not without getting something in return.
Stoically, I sat there, with my hands folded on the table and my chin resting on top of them, just looking at him. I knew this game. The standoff only lasted a couple of minutes when he upped the ante, as I knew he would. He says, “Did I tell you about the time I got slapped in the face by a Nun, in church, twice?” Now, this story has probably been told a thousand times, to a thousand different suckers, but at eight I didn’t know that. I was circling the bait.
I didn’t have to say a word (we both knew the routine) I just got up and started ‘itching’ his back. I knew Uncle Joe was good for a story; even at church he seemed to attract them. The last time we visited, everyone was talking about him inadvertently passing gas in a rather noticeable fashion, while sitting on a third row pew; whereupon he immediately turned to the man sitting to his right and, with a scowl, looked him up and down, and scooted over. They say the man just sat there with a beet red face until he finally got up and walked out.
Uncle Joe says (letting out some line, so he could better set the hook), “I was at church last Sunday and happened to sit behind five nuns, all perched in a single row. As the mass progressed, at the appropriate time, they would either sit, stand, or kneel, (he lowered his voice slightly and leaned into me a little; he was leading me now) as you well know.”
Without noticing, I found myself nodding my head in agreement, for having been to mass lots of times I knew for sure there were a lot of doings. Everyone was up, down, and all over the place. Now that I got to thinking about it, I was pretty sure that my mother only went for the exercise. I was buying in, and I could certainly verify by actual facts that he must be telling a true story.
He goes on, “At one point, the procedures took the nuns from a sitting position to a full upright stand, and it was right then and there that I noticed the irregularity. The nun almost in front, (he was pointing now) but one over to the right of me, had (again he leans in), no doubt inadvertently, captured a fair sized piece of her habit in her butt cheeks.”
Without giving me time to digest the enormity of this situation, he goes on.
“Well,” he says, “me being the good catholic that I am, I reached up and pulled out the misplaced fabric; whereupon, she spun around, and hesitating only long enough to verify that she was addressing the correct party, slapped me across the face.”
I stood there, my hands up to their knuckles in back hair, pondering the incredible scene just described to me.
I was picturing the habit, stuck in such a predicament, when I began to feel thoroughly pleased with myself because I knew exactly what a habit was. I was born a catholic, but was not what you would call an enthusiast, and had learned this piece of information just two days ago at a party thrown by my Aunt Martha.
I was still pondering these things when I realized that I had been gypped. “Hold on a minute,” I said, knowing that I was owed more story, “you said that you got slapped twice.”
“I did,” Uncle Joe responded without one bit of hesitation, “when I saw how mad it made her, I tucked it back in!”
Next week: Uncle Joe, the Seed, and Subsequent Events.
PS: If you would like to learn exactly how I found out that the garments worn by a nun were called a habit, read more here….