Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - When Relatives Scare

On the heels of my Sunday Memory Drawer entry from Easter Sunday where we met my Aunt Helen, let's meet her husband.  My Uncle Fritz.  He was my father's older brother and the closest sibling he had.  

As I remember, they was inseparable.  They'd go fishing together.  One was always at the other's house.   Heck, they were building a recreation room in our attic, complete with a thoroughly restored pool table.  He was considered the spirit of our family.  As Grandma would say, he would make "all the fun" at gatherings.   As you can see from the photo above, he obviously loved life.  Lit it up and drank it. 

Yep, Uncle Fritz was the lifeforce of our existence.

And he constantly scared the shit out of me.  

Not that he ever did anything to me.  Oh, wait, let me retract that.  He used to do something to me which I will describe in a bit.  But, overall, there was nothing that should have made me petrified of Uncle Fritz.  But he just seemed to be bigger than everybody else in the family.

And louder.  A male version of Ethel Merman.  You heard Uncle Fritz coming a mile away.  I would hear his voice enter the back door of my grandmother's kitchen downstairs and I would immediately shiver.  To a five-year-old, bombastic personalities are not necessarily endearing.  They come off more like the giant bedeviling Jack on his beanstalk.

When he visited, my parents never understood my reluctance to be anywhere near Uncle Fritz.  My mom would call me into the kitchen.

"Here.  Go bring this bottle of beer to your Uncle Fritz."

Why can't you, Mom?  I mean, I don't want to be an enabler for someone's potential alcoholism.  

Or something like that?

Eventually, I would have to run in and drop the bottle so quickly that I easily could have triggered a liquid accident.  

Incomprehensible reaction on my part?  Sure.  But you had to be there.

Meanwhile, my dad and he were super close and Uncle Fritz' visits ramped up significantly when they started working on converting our attic into a game room/pool hall.  The two of them bought this billiard table that had been originally manufactured around 1900.  Where did it come from?  Who knows?  But, every weekend, they would be working on this room.  Lugging plywood and other tools up the stairs.  My mother would, of course, suggest that I help.

"Go see if your father and Uncle Fritz need anything?"

Oh, what the hell can I do?  I'm only five.

But I would get suckered into something.  And always wind up in the most precarious position I could be in when it came to Uncle Fritz.  Walking up a flight of stairs with him behind me.

Why, you ask?

Because Uncle Fritz loved to give me a wedgie.  Or pretend his finger was a buzzer and he would stick it between my legs.   With the loudest and scariest sound known to man.

He never failed to do this when I was walking in front of him up a flight of stairs.

And it never failed to scare the crap out of me.  To my young perspective, Uncle Fritz was essentially the fun house at the local amusement park.  With a distinct de-emphasis on the word "fun."  

I did my best to avoid him at all costs.

And that desire was further enhanced the very next summer.  There was something going on in my family.  The hushed tones and whispers between all the adults didn't go unnoticed with yours truly.  But, naturally, there was a definitive age limit to how concrete information was shared.  Finally, my mom told me we were going to another relative's house for a going-away party.  In my family, get-togethers were arranged for a myriad of reasons.  Birthdays.  Engagements.  The first day of a given month.  Any excuse to have a party.

I asked what was the particular reason for this shindig?

"Uncle Fritz is going into the hospital and we're going to wish him well."

Gee, what was wrong with him?  And hopefully it has something to do with that index finger he keeps sticking into my crotch.  Mom was surprisingly compliant with details.

"He's got yellow jaundice."

All this five-year-old heard was the word "yellow."  Now this big giant I recoiled from would be nothing but a large banana.  And I was creeped out all over again.  

So when we went to this gathering, I sat in the car.  And watched from a distance as Uncle Fritz got into a car and headed off to the hospital.  

He didn't look yellow to me from a distance, but I didn't want to get any closer to be sure.  

And as I saw him pass by our car in his, I peeked from the car seat where I was hiding.  I made out the very top of his head.  

Little did I know at the time that this would be the very last time I would be scared by Uncle Fritz.

Or was it?  Click in next Sunday for the rest of the saga.

Dinner last night:  Enjoyed my panini on Friday so much that I made another.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was once told that my godson liked me because I was calm. That makes more sense after reading about the overbearing Uncle Fritz and his brand of humor.

Many adults don't get kids, cannot see the world through a child's eyes. When you add loud to big, you often scare children without intending to.

Touching a child's crotch is an odd way to engage. It's certainly not funny. The horrors of childhood always include these clueless adults.