Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
One uncle of mine was the happiest of my uncles. I had a number of them, but none of them seemed very happy to me besides this one. He was large and jolly and had a face like an enormous hamster’s. He did this trick where he apparently removed the tip of his index finger then put it back on. He sure loved his booze.
In my family the aunts and uncles were so numerous that they didn’t have much individuality to them. In fact, I only know one of them anymore, my paternal aunt, who has traveled the world and lived in a Greek cave with another woman for a spell. Even she wasn’t as happy as this one uncle, whose wife let him go at some point in my childhood, when his own kids were out of the house already. One son went to Vietnam, I recall, but I can’t even remember the names of the other boys. Don’t know if there were any daughters. This is how loose my family was.
One day came along when I was about ten, and Mom and Dad were fighting about the happy uncle. The happy uncle needed a car and asked if he could borrow one of ours. Dad wasn’t having it. Mom wanted to help her brother. They fought so bad I told my little brother I thought they were getting a divorce or something. It was that bad.
They didn’t loan the uncle the car. Then, later and in unrelated action, they did get a divorce.
This uncle was so happy he drew a mural all over the walls of his living room, a jungle motif full of broad-leafed plants and maybe some toucans. When we saw it, it was all still in pencil, but he said he had plans to paint it up one day. I don’t know if he ever did.
We moved away, then moved back a year later, and if that wasn’t strange enough, we soon had the happy uncle living with us for a while, sans Dad. (At least my mother says he lived with us, but I’ll have to take her word for it because I’ve blocked it out I guess.) That would never have happened if Dad had been around. The happy uncle had just been involved in a terrible car accident, and in the course of things he lost his apartment or trailer or whatever it was he had been living in. He said he had a diabetic blackout and crashed, killing some teenagers in the other car, and that got him into a vehicular homicide situation so that now his happiness seemed wrong. He couldn’t seem to help it, though.
Because he had some alcohol on board (that is, in his blood), the happy uncle got a jail sentence, but after a while he only had to go to jail on weekends so he could keep working. That probably made him happy.
Ultimately we had seen the last of him, but I think mostly because he moved somewhere else, maybe somewhere where nobody knew about his accident. And he got sick, or his liver did, and he died and we never heard from those cousins of mine who were scattered here and there and had lost their mom long before anyway and weren’t holding their breath for the happy uncle.
At least that’s how I piece it all together.