Gramps

Northeast Magazine

Last night at dinner my Uncle called me stupid and vowed never, and I mean never, to speak to me again. Then he dumped his dessert, sponge cake with strawberry topping, on my shirt and lap. The strawberries were the syrupy kind that stained, not the whole fresh ones that could easily be picked off.

"I will talk to you if you stop lying,” he said calmly.

This created quite a quandary since everyone at the dinner table, and that included my Uncle, knew that I wasn't lying. We also knew that he would stop speaking to me as he had stopped speaking to others over the years.

Once he stopped speaking to my mother for almost four years because she wouldn't give his wife her famous chicken fricassee recipe. My mother tried to explain to my Uncle that not only had she never made chicken fricassee she didn't have a recipe, famous or not, and if the truth be known she didn't like chicken fricassee and never had. This infuriated my Uncle even more and he vowed not to speak to her for four years and he took his SOMETHING-AT-A-GLANCE notebook out of his pocket and presumably wrote the date in. 

Mom, trying to keep peace, went to her friends and found the best chicken fricassee recipe that she could. She then copied it as MOM'S FAMOUS CHICKEN FRICASSEE  RECIPE, and presented it to my Uncle. He looked at it, then showing his disgust with it and her, he ripped it in half and took  out his SOMETHING-AT-A- GLANCE  announcing that he was adding a year to her punishment.

Three and a half years later Uncle dropped in to Mom's for Sunday dinner and acted as though the entire episode had never happened.  We kidded mom and told her she had gotten a year and a half off for good behavior. My  Uncle never spoke of chicken fricassee again but I always thought it would have been real interesting if the dinner that night had  been. . .

.

My Uncle was typical of the men in our family in size only. They had always been known as six-footers and to them it was a source of pride. They all spoke of it as though it was a personal accomplishment. Gramps and his brothers were six-footers and all of my uncles were too.  

God forbid any of the women were to marry anyone under six feet tall. They would have to suffer the humiliation of the children's table on holidays. 

Gramps, my favorite six-footer, and I had the same birthday and every year on our birthday we would stand side by side on his stoop and have our birthday picture taken. It was always the same pose, Gramps with his left arm around my shoulder looking tall and straight ahead at the camera and me looking up at him trying to look taller.

There was a entire wall of these pictures in sequence at Gramps' house with me getting taller and he shortening up a bit as the years went by. We called this gallery the SEE GRAMPS SHRINK WALL.  It was our family version of the Evolution  of the Species chart found in school texts.

 Gramps has been gone for a while now and his son, my Uncle, the one with the sponge cake, is well into his seventies  and looking more like his father every day. This includes no longer being a six-footer and there-in lies the problem.

At dinner, Uncle, just up from Florida, asks how tall my son is and I tell him that the kid has become a six-footer and is still growing. He's just about my height, I add.

 "Well, how tall are you?"  my Uncle asks and I answer six-one, and my Uncle says. " Go on. You must be six four or six five . . . "   No.  I tell him.  I'm only six-one.  "Liar,"  he says, "I'm a six footer, always have been and you've got a good four inches on me."  

Not wanting to rile Uncle I say nothing and continue to eat and that's when he slides his chair back, stands and dumps his dessert on me and with a final,  "Stupid, I'll start talking to you again if you stop lying." He stalks out of the room. Just as he approaches the dining room doorway he ducks so as not to bump his head. He needn't have bothered. It was a seven foot doorway.


Northeast Magazine

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