Monday, October 15, 2007

Family matters of the heart

Uncle Steve. Uncle. Unc. I've called him all three names throughout my life. He is my mother's only brother and my only uncle-not-by-marriage, though at times he's seemed more like an older brother to me. Here are some scattered facts and memories:

  • He is nine years younger than my mom and twelve years older than I am.

  • We were both born in the Year of the Rabbit.

  • The day I was born there was a large lumber yard fire in Winnipeg. My dad and Uncle Steve were on their way to the hospital to see me but they stopped instead to watch the fire. Their defenses?

    • Dad: I had already seen you.
    • Uncle: Well...I was 12 and it was a big fire!

  • My grandma has a tape that consists of three-or-four-year-old Nat trying to sing various nursery rhymes. I say trying because every time I would get going on one, "Unc" would be right there, bugging me and making me mess up.

  • Around the same time, my grandma, grandpa, uncle, and I all took a road trip from Winnipeg to Hecla Island. Apparently I tried (there's that word again) to sing Baa, Baa Black Sheep the entire two-and-a-half hours. Uncle Steve would always interject with the wrong lyrics, forcing me to start over. My grandma recalls this trip with a laugh and the smallest of shudders.

  • I quite clearly remember when he still lived with my grandma and grandpa. He was a typical teen with Rolling Stones pictures hung in his room and loud music eminating from his speakers. He has introduced me to some fun music, such as R.E.M., Modest Mouse, and Badly Drawn Boy (sound warning).

  • My grandpa rigged a buzzer from the main floor kitchen to Uncle Steve's room in the basement to save my grandparents the trip downstairs if he was needed. I delighted in pressing the buzzer repeatedly at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. He quickly disconnected it.

  • My sister and my uncle have been playing an ongoing, rambunctious, and often annoying game of in-house tag since approximately 1989. I am a casualty of this game, which consists of them simply chasing and whacking each other. My sister tagged my uncle and ran down the stairs at my grandparents house. Uncle Steve quickly followed. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, he spied the closed bathroom door and figured my sister was hiding inside. With a flourish and a loud "A-HA!" he flung open the door to reveal an extremely naked and shocked Nat, who had just gotten out of the shower. He maintains all he saw was a flash of flesh and a whirl of towel. I suspect he's lying.

  • Once, at a extended family function (someone's 50th wedding anniversary, I think), Uncle stuck a chicken bone up each nostril. I thought this was hilarious. Still do, in fact.

  • Uncle Steve is a great gift-giver. I can usually count on music, books, or kitchen things from him. However, my favourite Unc gift ever was a knee joint keychain. See, I called him Unc, so he called me Nee (as in niece). Man, I loved that keychain!

  • Each and every time my family plays Bid Whist, my uncle loudly complains about one of the rules. The way it works is that the number of bids that we all give cannot total the number of cards that have been dealt. It is the dealer that gets screwed with this rule, as he or she bids last. When Uncle's the dealer, he tries to make the bids equal the cards and then acts all shocked when the rest of us sigh, roll our eyes, and lambast him for his blatant attempt at cheating. I know this point will make no sense to you non-card-players out there. So it goes.

  • This morning, someone was literally holding Uncle Steve's heart in his hands. He was hooked up to machines, given an anaesthetic, and opened up so that the doctors could fix his faulty heart. He is 44 and needed open-heart surgery. That doesn't seem right. Tonight I spoke to my grandma and she has reported that he is doing fine, which is an immense relief. I don't know what I'd do without him to amuse me at the next family gathering. Heal quickly, Unc. Love you.


  1. What a great tribute to your uncle, i hope he is doing well.

  2. Thanks, diva. He's recovering quite nicely, much to my relief.