A Naked Sunfish Holiday Tradition
Cheer from Aunt Edith
late Uncle Wes lived with my Aunt Edith for most of his adult
life...although I’m sure it seemed like an eternity to him.
He worked for the Bethlehem Steel Company in Baltimore for thirty
years until he retired. He worked the night shift getting off
around 7 a.m. when he would come home for dinner. In the summer
when it was warm...and Baltimore can get very, very humid...he
would go to a movie matinee in an air conditioned theater and
sleep. If you knew my Aunt Edith you would assume what I did...even
as a child...and that was that Uncle Wes worked nights and went
to matinees to get away from his wife. He never said much. He
was a slight, wiry man of few words. And the few words he almost
always uttered were, “For Chrissakes Edith! SHUDD UPP!!”
man was almost incidental by nature. One time...after he retired
and he and Aunt Edith moved back to the Cleveland area...my brothers
and I were helping him put a refrigerator in a backyard shed because
there was no room for it in the trailer they were moving into.
After much jostling my brothers and I closed the shed door and
thought we were finished. From her perch (as supervisor of course)
Aunt Edith looked at the three of us with bewilderment and asked,
“Where the HELL is Wes?” And after exchanging confused
glances we heard muffled sounds coming from behind the fridge
in the shed. “MMMPPPHH!!! Hey!! HHMMPPHHFFF!!!” We
quickly opened the shed door, moved aside the refrigerator and
liberated Uncle Wes. My brothers and I were all embarrassed and
each, in turn, apologized profusely for our insensitive behavior.
Aunt Edith broke into the humility with a shriek of, “What
the HELL were you doing in there?” Which prompted Uncle
Wes to ... once again ... chant his mantra. “For Chrissakes
Edith!! SHUDD UPP!!” They were quite the loving couple.
Their last name was Crabtree. I am not making this up.
soon was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thirty years in the steel
mills and 2 packs a day of Chesterfield non-filters caught up
with him. The last time I saw him he was lying on the couch in
their trailer smoking the aforementioned brand of cigarettes,
quite literally coughing his lungs out ... or what was left of
them. “I TOLD him to quit those goddamned things years ago.
“ Aunt Edith offered for my contemplation. To which Uncle
Wes replied sarcastically (yep, you guessed it) “Cough cough
... For Chrissakes HACK! HACK! Edith!!! SHUDD UPPP!!!” These
were the final words I heard my uncle ever say and we all joked
at the funeral that these very words were more than likely chiseled
into his headstone.
few years after Wes passed, my brother and his new wife were having
their very first Christmas and invited everyone over...including
Aunt Edith. My parents were there along with my siblings and their
families. This included my brother Jim’s 9 year old adopted
son Matt. Matt the Brat was what my father called him. I thought
this surprisingly subtle for my Dad. If I knew where Matt is today...and
thank God I do not ... I would have to guess some one killed him
or he’s in jail convicted of several murders. I honestly
don’t care so long as he’s nowhere near me. So Matt
the Brat is playing with one of the toys some one so graciously
gave him and he broke it. This kid could break anything he got
his hands on. But in a moment of diplomacy my father (affectionately
known as Snook) said, “They don’t make anything any
good any more!!” To which...in the spirit of the season
Aunt Edith quipped, “You’re right Snook!! Everything
IS SHIT!!!” Well... happy holidays to you too Aunt Edith.
Inside my head I distinctly heard a voice from my past reply,
“For Chrissakes Edith!! SHUDD UPPP!”
know...there are lots of reasons to go through life believing
that “everything is shit.” There are days when it
certainly seems true to me. I have my days when Sartre’s
“Hell is other people” could easily be the thought
of the day. But...unlike Aunt Edith...I don’t want to spend
a big chunk of my life living alone in a trailer. And when I think
of this particular Christmas it strikes me how most of them blur
into each other...with the exception of a few. And this is one
of them I distinctly remember. As much as family...and sometimes
even friends ... can annoy a person ... especially at this time
of year ... I have come to realize that even some one like Aunt
Edith helped make me who I have become. I mean that in a positive
way. Imagine ... Aunt Edith’s negativity was so over the
top it MADE me consider the positive. I have no idea how she became
so bitter. My father did shortly before he died also. Yet they
both, particularly Snook, had a positive influence. They were
there. Unlike today when some people are not.
holiday season...regardless of which one you celebrate...take
the time to savor those around you...even if they drive you nuts.
They may not...for whatever reason...be there next year. And in
some strange way, which will surprise you, their absence will
make you miss them. I guarantee it. (a possible exception to this
uplifting message might be Matt the Brat) And you might consider
that next year YOU might not be here. So I suppose my holiday
message may seem bittersweet to most...but that’s how I
see it. And if anyone feels the need to take issue with my views
then I encourage you to speak up LOUDLY...’cause I’ve
got one thing and one thing only to say to you.
He was a bigly man
with a pigly grin
and jiggly hands
with a giggly charm
and a rigly plan
The pigly man
with his bigly stand
got his wiggly gut
all squiggly stuck
about where his
jiggly hands have been.
My wife Yvonne and I had a delightfully delicious vegetarian Indian meal the other evening at a local Indian owned and operated establishment. Afterwards … while we were finishing our wine … I noticed in the bar area directly behind Yvonne, they were showing the Cleveland Indians game on TV. At first I made nothing of it. Simply a bar with baseball on the big screen. But after further contemplation I thought to myself …
"Hmmm… I'm watching the Indians … in an Indian restaurant.”
Consequently, this made me recall the time … must have been in the early 90s … when I walked into work at OSU library wearing a quasi "Tribe" jersey. And the first person I see is a graduate student from India. So I cheerfully greeted the young man … well … as cheerful as I get in the morning … with a "Good Morning".
After flashing a shy, wondering … yet wry smile … he replied, “Rick! What is this "Indians" you have so proudly displayed on your chest?"
And I thought …
“Hmmmmmm … “
Rick's Books, Naked Sunfish Caviar
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aNna (Wellman) rybaT
Chapmans Mill 3
Mah Na Mah Na
So I'm sitting in our sun room enjoying a cup of hot joe and the newspaper ... baby Maltese Freddie fast asleep in my lap ... when "Mah Na Mah Na" comes on the iTunes. My Luther League pal Dale and I spent a good deal of time clasping our noses and singing an awful rendition of this while wandering aimlessly at a youth retreat. (Hey! We were maybe 16 years old!) The song … such as it is … was on the radio at the time … many … many … moons ago. If you aren’t familiar with the tune … and odds are very good you are not … check it out on YouTube. Red Skelton used it on his variety show. Even the Muppets did a version.
Anyway ... the whacky ditty is playing on iTunes … and 7 or 8 seconds into it Freddie leaps to his feet … still on my lap ... looks at the computer from whence “Mah Na Mah Na” emanates ... looks confusingly at me ... then the computer ... then back to me ... computer … me … a puppy perplexed … back and forth ... forth and back.
Finally, I pinch my proboscis and sing "Mah Na Mah Na" out loud … serenade style … to Freddie. (Dale would have been proud) My precious pooch pauses … ponders … gazes at me … tilts his furry little head slightly … obviously bemused ... licks my nose affectionately ... then settles back into my lap and resumes his nap.
I love this little guy!!!!!!
Mah Na! Mah Na!