Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Third Cousin, One's Removed.

Good Gobble, I love Turkey Day. 

If holidays were early 90s college basketball teams, Thanksgiving would be Michigan, and the Fab Five is turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie. And like Chris Webber, I’ll travel to have some.

It’s been a personally-revered event since my days as a lard lovin’ little chubbgoblin. The sage-speckled strata of salty goodness bewitched me at such a young age I would have surely chosen giblet gravy Pop Tarts over strawberry had they been available at the A & P. Each time I traced a turkey around my fleshy digits, I fantasized of the crayon becoming a fork, the drawing a drizzly butterball. 

Every year, my aunt held a feast. Cousins and friends and extended family crammed the house, all the delicious smells weaving with the comfortable aroma of my uncle’s pipe. I loved everyone one there.

Almost everyone, that is. I'll call him Jackie. I’m not sure if he was related to me or not—he was someone’s step-grandfather-in-law or something—all I know is that he was always there by the time we arrived. Jackie was older, his thinning hair and glasses giving his face a nondescript “old man of the 1960s” look. Every year, there he was, perched in a folding chair, leaning on his cane and clicking his dentures.

Jackie would wait until we’d been there a while. As soon as my parents weren’t around, he’d look me up and down and say something about my weight. Usually it was along the lines of “Looks like you’re a little on the fat side.”

In case you didn’t already know, I had a few insecurity issues as a kid—my teeth stuck out, I had black, horn-rimmed glasses, and yes, I was a little on the fat side. Even if he hadn’t pointed it out, I already felt like a dweeb, having been forced to dress up in my church clothes just to see a bunch of people I usually saw in my Sears Toughskins. It was as if he knew I was a sitting duck for his ridicule.

My feelings weren’t hurt as Jackie lampooned my girth year after year; it pissed me off. He didn’t exactly have the body of Wink Martindale, I figured, so he should just shut the hell up. 

But a couple of years later, the ground shifted a bit. I learned some information about Jackie from an intoxicated, yet apparently well-informed, family member:

He had no penis.

I’m not making this up. It was forty-five years ago, but it may has well have happened this morning, the words are so clear in my memory. Here are some of the thoughts and feelings I recall upon hearing this game-changer:

a) Totally not surprised—His pants always rode up over his gut, making the lower half a little snug. He didn’t sport even a slight bulge, his smooth groin mirroring Homer Simpson’s. I could only imagine that, without a twig, the berries simply sank back into the peat moss.

b) Grossed out—Oh, man, that must’ve hurt! What did they do with it?

c) Vengeful—I may be fat, Jackie, but I can always lose weight. Also, I have a penis.

d) Sad—I remember thinking, how much would it suck—sorry, bad choice of words—how much would it bite—sorry, my bad again. That must have been terrible.

I can’t remember if Jackie had already passed away before I’d learned of his dismembership from Klub Kilbasa. I know I was still quite young and my parents must have been shocked to observe my learning this classified data from the drunk relative. I never brought it up, so to speak, and neither did they.

So Jackie, all this time later, I forgive you for calling me fat every year at Thanksgiving. And wherever you are, I hope they let you have as many of those things as you want.

You deserve it.

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