Thursday, April 20, 2017
When I was a kid, we had some weird relatives. Let's take a look at one set of them. My maternal grandfather had two sisters, whom we knew as Aunt Mary Florence and Aunt Cornelia. Both were married. Aunt Mary Florence's husband, Uncle Bernard [BURR-nurd] Brunton, was an interesting guy. A home handyman extraordinaire. I remember one Thanksgiving back in our Hiram days (1956-66), Uncle Bernard and my dad went rabbit hunting; I went along, thus escaping the elaborate Thanksgiving preparations at home. Aunt Mary Florence was also somewhat ... normal, becoming (more or less) eccentric as she aged. (Imagine that!)
Grandpa's other sister, Cornelia, was a different case altogether. Her sister, Mary Florence, was small and thin, looking like one of those pioneer women in photographs that show those lean and tough women standing outside a sod house with a sodden husband. Cornelia was ... stout--and not firmly so. And weird. I remember once when I was in high school, they gave me a ride back from Indianapolis, where we'd gathered at the home of my mom's brother, Ronald. (I think: The circumstances are a little fuzzy.)
Aunt Cornelia was in the back seat. I heard some struggling back there, turned around, and saw ... Aunt Cornelia (stout, remember) struggling out of her girdle. I quickly looked back to the road, hoping with all my hope that I could delete that image. (Clearly, I haven't: It's with me still, more than a half-century later.) Anyway, she was laughing and having a good old time trying to make herself comfortable for the long ride--about six hours from Indianapolis to Hiram. I was the jerk, not she.
Aunt Cornelia's husband, Uncle Earl, was a truly odd bird. He was somewhat musical--played the organ in church. But he was unlike any other man I'd ever known. He was ... what? ... much more frisky than the other men in our family. Less traditionally masculine. As a kid, I just thought he was weird. We always joked that whenever Uncle Earl visited Uncle Bernard and Aunt Mary Florence, Uncle Bernard suddenly realized that the place needed some ... alterations. And he would start sanding and sawing and hammering and whatever while the sisters dealt with Earl.
(The Bruntons lived in Jackson, Ohio; the Greens, in Columbus--about seventy-five miles north of Jackson).
Well, that same Thanksgiving that Uncle Bernard went hunting with my dad, I recall that we Dyers made fun of the relatives (among ourselves) as they headed upstairs to bed with their impressive collections of pills and glasses of water on a tray.
Oh, the arrogance of the healthy! The young!
I later, of course, watched my dad--and now my mom--begin taking piles of pills for various things. (To my parents, I made no allusions to the Bruntons and the Greens--that would not have been wise.)
And now ... I feel myself becoming a Brunton, a Green. Pills at breakfast; different pills at lunch; yet different pills at supper. For blood pressure, for bone health, for battling the spread of my cancer, for general health (vitamins, fish oil). I also get two regular injections: One is monthly (bones); the other, quarterly (cancer).
And, of course, when I look in the mirror, I no longer see the starting guard on the Hiram High Huskies, the varsity tennis player for Hiram College, the guy who ran a bunch of 10K's later on; the guy who pedaled the Airdyne stationary bicycle so furiously every day, who mastered the StairMaster, the guy who hiked the Chilkoot Trail over the mountains from Alaska into the Yukon, the guy who ...
No, those guys are gone. Now I see the Bruntons and the Greens. And--faintly, faintly--I hear the echo of a boy's laughter about old folks' meds.