Maybe Uncle Ben was stubborn, too

He is still refusing to come out. Maybe today will be lucky. It is the anniversary of my Uncle Ben’s birthday. He was a musician who lived in Austin. He loved cats and Garfield and could play almost every instrument. It seemed like it anyway. He died almost twenty years ago of a brain aneurysm, so I didn’t get to know him very well, but I thought he was cool. He taught me how to blow bubbles with bubble gum and gave us McDonald’s gift certificates for Christmas. I feel connected to him whenever I play the piano, although I can’t play rock ‘n’ roll on it like he could. I’m better at classical. Thanks to him, my brother and I discovered Nermal (the cutest cat in the world) and garnered hours of entertainment from that and marveling how cute his cat was all hunched up behind the curtain on the windowsill. It’s actually amazing how alike we are. I wish I’d gotten to know him better, but I’m glad for the time we got. Thanks, Uncle Ben. Hope you’re still rocking out up in heaven.

Tales from Grandpa, part 2

So, Grandpa has a lot of great stories about his time serving in World War II, but it’s hard to get him started telling them. He did tell me once about a bunkmate of his who had that famous pin-up of Betty Grable pinned up over his bed. Every time they would leave, the guy would kiss his fingers and then press them on Betty Grable’s rear end in the picture. Grandpa asked him why he did that. He replied, “Because if I die, I want to be able to say that the last thing I did was kiss Betty Grable’s ass!”

Tales from Grandpa

I’ve been thinking about my Grandpa a lot lately. He was quite the raconteur in his day, but he has been declining somewhat lately. I feel like I want to preserve some of my favorites of his stories.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I am supposedly related to Jesse James on my mother’s side. My grandfather’s mother’s maiden name was James. This was Grandpa’s main proof of the relationship when we got older, but his proof was slightly more colorful when we were younger and more gullible. He told us that Jesse James used to come by his house and his mother would give him a bag of cookies, which he would then sling over his saddle and ride off! Grandpa later admitted this wasn’t true, but he still insists we are related to Jesse James.

Weird (and some wonderful) factoids about my family

1. An inordinate number of people in my mom’s family go by their middle names. My mom, grandfather, younger brother, uncle, aunt, and two cousins, to be exact. In fact, my step-grandmother’s and late uncle’s chosen monikers aren’t part of their name at all. If my uncle, aunt, and cousin went by their proper names, they would be Rady, Alma, and Stephanie, rather than Tom, Jane, and Michele. If my step-grandmother and uncle went by their proper names, they would be Ila and Charles Michael, instead of Tiny and Ben. In fact, Ben was named for my great-uncle Ben, who was also named Charles Michael. No one knows why anymore.

2. My younger brother and two first cousins all have the same birthday (albeit in different years).

3. I am supposedly related to Jesse James on my mom’s side, as well as Brigham Young. In fact, Young is a family name on both sides. I don’t want to look too closely at that.

4. Five of my dad’s six sisters have a form of “Mary” as their first name. My paternal grandfather was a devout Catholic and, after one of my aunts died at the age of two weeks, he promised God that any other daughters he was blessed with would be named after Mary. He got six more.

5. An inordinate number of people in both of my families have the same name. My grandfather and uncle, my niece and first cousin once removed, my mom and my paternal grandmother, my first cousin and me, and soon, my son and another first cousin once removed. Oh, and my stepfather and my older brother. That’s the most confusing one.

6. My mom’s first and third husbands have the same name. Which is why my stepdad and older brother have the same name. My older brother was named after his biological dad. (Before you start thinking my mom gets married every time she turns around, she was married to my dad for over 20 years and has been married to my stepdad for almost 16 now.)

7. I have a niece who is 13 years younger and an aunt who is 13 years older than me. In fact, the age difference between my youngest aunt and my older brother (oldest grandchild) on my dad’s side is 3 years.

8. My uncle’s first wife’s second husband was the son of Ross Barnett, former governor of Mississippi. My former aunt and her husband called the governor and his wife “Big Momma” and “Big Daddy.” To quote Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up.

9. My stepdad, older brother, and I are all left-handed. (Well, I think my older brother is ambidextrous.) In fact, both of my stepsister’s parents are left-handed, but she is right-handed.

10. My stepsister is four days younger than me. We always refer to each other as “sister,” so you can imagine the confusion we caused when we told people that. So much fun.

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