…Uncles who are Jerks.
You’ve heard me mention Rob a few times on the blog. I’ve known him a long time now which means that I’ve known his kids for most of their lives…. well, over half of their lives anyway.
Rob and I both grew up in areas where there were big families around. During the “Great Darkness” (also known as the time that both of us lived in Chicago) he felt like his kids were missing out by not having family nearby. To make this somewhat better we spent a lot of time at each others houses in order to help the girls feel like they were more a part of a family. It worked.
His two girls have always called me Mr. Tommy and my wife gained the “Ms.” title. In the deep south this is fairly common but I haven’t seen it in regular use elsewhere.
Until my mother died everyone simply knew her as Ms. Glenda. Everyone. From the Sheriff, to her peers, to convenience store clerks and the guy who washed her car, to my wife and my brother’s wives. Everyone knew her simply as Ms Glenda. I like that. It makes things feel like home for me and it shows a level of deference and respect that was certainly due for my mother.
In the time before we met Rob and his family they had grown apart from the girls’ godparents. One day Rob and his Wife sat my wife and I down for a serious conversation and offered us the job. Though not technically God Parents in the religious sense; more of a legal guardian backup plan sort of thing. I tend to be a guy that takes responsibility like that seriously so I gave it a few weeks to sink in before we agreed. Once we did, papers were drawn up and I became an unofficial uncle. I also became the guy that makes sure that everyone wears seatbelts so that I don’t have to exercise those rights.
In the last few years the girls have started calling me Uncle Tommy instead of Mr. Tommy. That one still hasn’t stuck and they still occasionally fall back to Mr. Tommy. I’m ok with either one but it does give me reason to pause sometimes and thank God that I’m so lucky.
Rob sometimes calls me for advice on various topics or when he needs to think something through in his own head. This gives me a unique perspective into the children’s lives that I wouldn’t otherwise have. But it also presents a problem. You see, I’m not an actual Uncle. I really don’t have a say in the way things go in his household (and I shouldn’t) but at the same time I have an obligation to remain a respected adult in the extended family. I have an obligation to support my friend when he asks for advice and I have an obligation to be right when I do it. As much of an obligation to be right as he does as their father. Because, honestly, it’s that damned important. I also tend to have a more strict view of how things should be done than Rob does which can lead to me saying something along the lines of, “well, can’t you just beat it out of them or something?” He tends to be a little more lax than I would be (though his kids would NEVER admit that). That’s not wrong, in fact, it’s right more often than I would like. He tends to focus on the important bits while I focus on details.
Here’s a few examples:
- I think the older girls should live on the top floor of the house with bars on the windows. Electrified bars. Oh, and a mounted machine gun, cleared firing lanes and a spotlight. He thinks the younger kids need to be upstairs where he can watch over them which means one of the older girls has to sleep in the bedroom downstairs. I guess I can see that… but I’m still pushing for the electrified bars on the windows.
- I want to smack the 13 year old when she thinks she’s all grown up and calls me by my first name in a too familiar way. That one really grinds on my nerves. He’d rather focus on keeping her from becoming a stripper. I can understand that too I guess… but I still don’t like it much.
- I think the 5 year old boy should be put to work doing whatever we are doing on any given day. He doesn’t have to swing a hammer all day but there’s no reason he can’t be handy to fetch nails. Thankfully we agree on this one and the kid really is a good helper if you keep him focused.
- I think he should tell them that I’m mean. He thinks he’d rather keep them believing that I’m the nice uncle who’s on their side.
- I think all of their friends are either crackheads or sluts, should be on the “do not talk to” list and possibly banned from the county if not the country. He understands that they’re going to talk no matter what “I” say and focuses on keeping his kids from following the crooked path. There’s one exception to this list. A girl that’s very sweet, extremely smart and always extremely polite. She’s welcome at my house any time and she’s a very good friend to Rob’s daughter. Of course, she’s probably the worst of them all when no one is looking… the little… *sigh*
I found a niche that I liked not long ago. It was playing the part of the crazy childless uncle who still wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of choppers and Haji’s coming across the dunes. This is an especially useful character to have on your side when young Casanova comes knocking on your 15 year old daughters door. And it’s fun!
On the potential suitors first night “meeting the family” I showed up with long hair and unkempt beard wearing a Carhart jacket and work boots. I made sure to park my Heavy Duty F250 Extended Cab truck next to his car. It was the typical “I’m a teenager with a restricted license and I found this car on ebay for $200” model car.
After dinner Rob and I invited Junior out for coffee. It went quite well actually… “here buddy, sorry about the camouflage in the back seat. Yeah, that’s a shovel why? Oh and just step over those guns there… Careful! I think one of them is loaded!”
I kid you not…
It wasn’t loaded though…
The coffee shop is in a shopping center with a Grocery store. On the way to park I took the shortest path which, by pure chance, is through the alley behind the Grocery store and which is also, again by pure chance, rather poorly lit and smells of sour milk and rotting vegetables. I don’t know what Junior thought during that drive but he was very respectful all night long.
He later fell out of favor and now, apparently, I can run over him if I see him. Cool.
In the end, we love them all very much (the family, not the boyfriends). It takes patience sometimes and other times it takes a bit of extra fortitude. It can be extremely tiring when you have your space invaded by five rambunctious kids and two tired parents but I love every minute of it. Even while I’m watching one of them climb a tree that I planted last year or clubbing my bird feeders with stick “sword” I think about how fantastic it is to have family around.
Sometimes I think that they believe that they impose too often. Phhttt, I say. I’m honored to have them as friends and I love teaching the kids things when I have the chance. We even go out of our way sometimes to get them to come to the house. Over the summer we invite them over every weekend to swim in our pool. We grill thousands of hotdogs and hamburgers and occasionally even have chicken nuggets. I spend hundreds of dollars and hours of work keeping the pool clean and “balanced” so that it’s ready any time they want to come swim. I keep hamburgers and hotdogs in the freezer and we buy an extra gallon of Ice Cream on grocery day. Sometimes I even pretend not to be grumpy and mean and let them bring their slutty, crackhead friends.
Which reminds me… New Rule: If you’ve bought your 14 year old daughter a bikini swimsuit to wear this means three things:
1) she can’t swim in my pool.
2) she has to leave her crack pipe at home.
3) You’re an asshole