Thursday, March 4, 2010


City people shy away from crazy. When urbanites see someone that looks even a teensy-eensy bit out of the norm they'll cross the street to avoid 'em.

Not us small towners. Nope. We love our eccentric, colorful characters. The crazier the better and if that person happens to be in your family, then by golly, we wear it like a badge of honor. Why, I've known more than one normal family that has stretched the truth or outright lied just to stake claim to an oddball in the gene pool. It's really sad. But you can't blame 'em. Bless their heart, they've no stories to recite around the Sunday dinner table or pass down to grandchildren. They probably just eat in silence, talking about the weather, work or worse - politics. Poor things.

That's certainly not the case with the "G" family. Their family 'character' is enough to make anyne green with envy. You see, Uncle OG lived in his car for years and years. He had clothes pushed as as tight as a drum along the back dash into the rear window, dishes with crusty food, old coke cups and a cat in the front one. It wasn't until he passed over to that beat-up, rusted out Cadillac in the sky that it was discovered that he had more money than you could shake a stick at. Yep, he hid money in every nook and cranny of that vehicle. And if that wasn't bizarre enough he had money in banks all over Southwest Missouri! Best folks can figure is that he saved every pay check he ever had when he was in the war. It makes sense, I mean, what expenses did he have besides cat food? Certainly not laundry because he'd been caught several times washing his drawers in the city park spring.

Then there was old Mr. Knapp who used to sit in Betty's drive in, eating napkins and drinking coffee. No,"Napkins" is not the name of some exotic Ozark Hillbilly dish (like 'puppy chow'). He really and truly ate napkins.

But perhaps one of the most vivid individuals in my hometown just happens to be my very own brother, Chuck. (Imagine me, standing straight, chest puffed up - yes I'm proud).

Chuck could best described as 'rain man, but with a lot more personality'. Like Raymond, Chuck has this remarkable ability with numbers. If you'll recall in the movie "Rain Man", Raymond computerized numeric factors and sums in his head. Well, Chuck memorizes entire phone books. "Oh look! There's Jane Smith - her number is 555-6623. " Or "There goes Bob Jones. 555-1234. Or he'll just simply point at a passer-by and mutter, "555-3321."
He also has been known to put his knowledge into practice a time or two. Just a few days ago Mama saw Mrs. Forest, his first grade teacher (Chuck is 44), "I heard from Chuck a few days ago. We talked for a good 45 minutes."
Once when Jayand I (and Mama) were vacationing in Alabama we stumbled on a lady from Missouri who worked as telephone operator. She was entertaining the group with stories about all the wierd calls she'd gotten through the years....people dialing 'O' to ask how long to bake a turkey, or asking, 'what year did Elvis die?'

"But the strangest calls were from a guy that kept calling back 'just to talk.' He'd ask really wierd things, "do you have a dog? What's his name? How about a cat? You don't have a cat? How come? Don't you like cats?"

My mother turned white. "What was his name?" she asked, afraid to hear the answer.

"If I remember correctly, I think it's Chuck."

When he was 10 years old he bit a huge chunk out of the dash of Mama's brand spanking new car. Imagine the look on the dealership repairmans face when he saw a huge gaping whole in the console with bite marks circling it.

He's been known to swallow a car key, contact lenses and pull hotel fire alarms.

When he gets tired his autistic ways will set in and he'll lay in bed and rock back and forth, singing. This is a big problem when it's 3:00 am, you're desparately trying to get some sleep and all you hear is him singing every single solitary word of "Amazing Grace," over and over and over and over until he goes to sleep. Um, did I mention that sometimes he has a problem with insomnia? Yeah.

Every relationship I ever had with anyone my whole life was determined by how they treated Chuck. I watched with an Eagle Eye how potential boyfriends reacted to him. In my mind a guy that was mean or indifferent to someone who is retarded was not someone I wanted in my life.

When I started dating Mr. T and he insisted that we bring Chuck along at least once a month I sat up and took notice. When he didn't complain when Chuck cried and threw a fit about little things, nor did he get even the slightest bit irritated when Chuck insisted on sitting between us and wouldn't let him hold my hand, and yet he still wanted to bring Chuck along, I knew this was the guy for me.

Chuck could be a handful. One time when my oldest daughter was about 4, he came to stay with us for the weekend. For whatever reason he got mad at me and started calling me names. Mr. T promptly packed him up and took him back home. A few days later I overheard Rachael telling my mom, "Dad had to take Unca Chuck back home because he called Mommy an 'astrodog.' " (doesn't take much to figure out that, of course, is not what he called me. Ahem!)

In his old age, Chuck, like the rest of us has settled down. He still keeps us in stitches but he's a lot more mellow. He loves my children and I am proud of the way they treat him. Never have they ever been embarrassed or ashamed to be seen with him and they are incredibly patient with him.

I think Will summed it up best when at 3 he said to me, "Mommy, I wuv Uncle Chuck."

"I love him too, William. He's my brother."

"Yes, but he's my fwend."

I'm glad to see that 'badge of honor' passing to another generation.

Until next time,



TCavanaugh said...

What a wonderful tribute to your brother and very insightful for those of us who don't know much, or understand about autism.

Old Centennial Farmhouse said...

OH, gosh, just about in tears here, Kath! Wonderful story...I love it and as someone with a special brother, I appreciate that you took the time to tell us about your brother. You have raised wonderful kids!

~Crystal~ said...

What a precious post! I loved reading about your brother....It made me smile.

And you vacationed in Alabama? Where?

Sherri said...

I love him too....He's MY Friend!!!!! Don't know if that gives me a badge, but sure makes me feel lucky!

English Cottage in Georgia said...

What a wonderful post - full of love and reflection.
Your descriptions of city folks to townspeople in regard to strange behavior is soooo TRUE. People just do not understand why we moved to a Deep South small town from a Texas city which had more in the way of medical facilities to offer. We are so much more fulfilled around people who demonstrate endless compassion.

Bella Della said...

Thank you for sharing this. You have a very special brother!