Mar. 23, 2017

A Family Reunion

While on our way to Pensacola, Florida for the only family reunion my father’s side of the family ever had (to my knowledge), I tried to brace my husband for the collage of people he was about to be exposed to. I named each of the brothers; there were eight boys total, and each of the three sisters who made up the diverse cast of eleven characters.

“I don’t know all of their birthrights in order, but I do know who they are,” I began. “First; my dad; you know him. Then there is my Uncle Danny, or Uncle Bud, as he liked to be called when I was growing up. He’s the oldest. My Uncle Jerry and Uncle Roger both live in Florida and I haven’t seen either of them since I was just a little girl. I don’t know what they do but I know they’re very successful in their lives.”

“Why are they so successful when the others are not,” Reese asked as we drove along.

“Probably because they distanced themselves from the rest of the family,” I answered. “My Uncle Pat, my Uncle Tim, and my Uncle David I saw the most of while growing up. Uncle David is my favorite uncle and he used to live with us at one point. He’s the one I call Stashbox.”

“That’s seven boys,” Reese pointed out.

“Uncle Bobby, he’s the last. Uncle David is the youngest though,” I went on. “There’s Aunt Linda, who now lives in Florida. My Aunt Peggy is a nurse, like me, and that’s whose house the reunion is being held. As for my Aunt Carolyn, I am so happy you get to meet her.”

“Reese glanced at me and asked, “Why is that?”

“Because Corky is my favorite aunt and the one I lived with in Utah.” I let that all soak in and then I added more details. “Uncle Jerry and Uncle Roger will probably be the straighter ones of the boys. As for the others, they’re all a bunch of bullshitters and you do not believe a word they tell you.”

My husband laughed and said, “So they’re all like your father?”

“Yes! I have a list of things I need you to remember before we get there, too.
1. No card playing – ever!
2. No leaving the house with them – especially Tim, Bobby or Pat.
3. Do not accept drinks from any of them. They would find it funny to lace it with something and then sit back and watch you.
4. Do not loan any of them money; remember, you’re broke.
5. Do not smart off to any of them, they will beat the crap out you. The only ones who could save you are my grandmother, my dad, and he might quite possibly be too busy laughing, and myself.
6. Remember, you are naïve to their world and trust me, they know it, they can smell it, and they will feast off your ignorance.
7. When in doubt about anything, ask me first.
8. And last but not least, try not to venture off too far from me.”

Suffice to say, my husband was quite overwhelmed when he met everyone. The person he liked the most was my Grandma Beebe. She’s a five-foot, 100 pound pistol of I’ll-knock-the-shit-out-of-you-grandma you ever saw even while carrying around an oxygen tank.

I didn’t think Reese would ever get over my grandmother reaching across the table and smacking the hell out of one of her sons. Afterwards, she shook her hand with a lit cigarette (yes, she was smoking with the oxygen) at him and read him the riot act. My husband whispered to me, “Now I know where you get your potty mouth from.” Grandma Beebe didn’t pull any punches; that’s for sure.

About five of my uncles (father included) started up a poker game. They all badgered Reese to sit down and play poker with them. He continued to deny their request citing he didn’t play card games and didn’t know how to play poker. Eventually though, my husband whispered and asked me why it was that he wasn’t allowed to play with them. At which time, Grandma Beebe, who was also playing poker with my uncles, snatched the deck of cards from my Uncle Pat’s hand, and said, “Give me those damn cards. None of you will be dealing to me, you cheating bastards!”

“See,” I said motioning toward Grandma. Without even trying to hide what I was saying, I explained, “Every one of these little shits know how to deal off the bottom of the deck, they know how to stack the deck, and you are nothing more than just a mark to them; easy money for the taking and that is why I said you cannot be playing cards with these assholes.”

All five men looked up at me and denied my claims. My grandmother, on the other hand, laughed. “She calls it like she sees it!” To my husband, Grandma advised, “Listen to her, Reese. She knows her uncles. They’re my sons and even I don’t deny what they are.”

Try as I might, I could not always keep Reese close to me. I didn’t want him to wander too far from my watchful eye. That might sound a little overbearing but to know my family is to understand why I was like that. My husband and his brother grew up sheltered from the people and environment wherein I grew up. My father’s family is entirely on the other end of the spectrum, most with criminal tendencies, and all know how to con and work a mark. Imagine my total surprise when Reese stepped to me and asked me if he could give Bobby a ride to the store.

“How did Bobby have a chance to ask you to take him to the store,” I questioned very suspiciously.

“He ran into me in the hallway upstairs. I went to the bathroom,” he answered.

“No! Absolutely not! Of the three I said you absolutely cannot leave the house with, you came up with the worst one,” I answered.

From behind me, my Uncle Bobby said, “Aw, C’mon Chelle, why not?”

“Because I don’t trust you,” I responded turning to face my uncle who was clearly amused. He knew why. “I do not have bail money and I can just see you talking him into a ride to the store and then finding the both of you hours later at some strip joint getting arrested. No!”

“I promise, just to the store and back,” Uncle Bobby said laughing,” Its five miles away. I swear we’ll be back in less than twenty minutes.”

It took some doing and lots of promises, including offers of handing over the title to his Harley he had at home in another part of Florida, but I eventually agreed to let Reese take my Uncle Bobby to the store.

“To the store and back. That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“Uncle Bobby, I promise you, if you are not back in twenty minutes, I’ll hunt you down and I will find you and when I do, I guarantee you will wish the cops had found you first and arrested you!” My uncle laughed again as he kissed my forehead. “And, no bullshit, either, Bobby!”

Again, with a laugh he asked, “What do you mean by that?” He knew exactly what I was talking about.

“Don’t rob anyone!”

With a wave, he promised, “I won’t.”

Fifteen minutes later, my husband races up to me and pulls me aside. As he is in my ear, he’s laughing hysterically and trying to his best to whisper to me about what happened at the store. I’m slightly amused, but still thinking I am going to need to kill my uncle. I glanced into the kitchen to look at my Uncle Bobby as he leans up against the counter top smirking at me.

After hearing all the gory details from my husband’s point of view, I headed straight for the kitchen to face the culprit, my Uncle Bobby. As I approach, he says to my husband, who is still cracking up, “No one likes a rat.”

“What did you do? I told you, don’t rob anyone! You promised!”

“I didn’t rob anyone, Chelle,” he denies. “You didn’t say I couldn’t con anyone. You specifically said not to rob them. Besides, I don’t have a gun on me right now!”

Personally, I thought that was a fib, too, because they all carried guns. “That is semantics! What con did you pull?”

“I did the money game. Besides, your husband was safe. He left and went to sit in the car while I worked the con. I kept him out of harm’s way.”

The money game is where the cashier is asked for change then changes it back, and again and again. It continues until the cashier is too confused to keep up with what is going on and it ends with the con artist walking away with a bag of free merchandise and a few extra dollars in their pocket. Needless to say, my uncle is very fluent in the money game.

“How much did you score?”

“Twenty bucks.”

I held out my hand, “Fine, I get half.”

We haven't been back for another reunion as my grandmother had passed away the following year, but suffice to say, this was quite memorable enough for my husband.