Sunday, December 13, 2009

There's One in Every Family


Last night was my annual Cousin's Christmas gathering. This is an event where all of the cousins on my dad's side of the family get together with their kids and have dinner and talk about the unique experiences we had growing up with my father's side of the family.




My father was the youngest of five children born to an Italian imigrant and his American born wife. His only brother, my Uncle Ronnie is 11 years his senior and the undisputed character of the family. Every year when we get together for Cousin's Christmas, the talk invariably turns to Uncle Ronnie stories.




The most succinct word that I can use to describe my Uncle Ronnie is "crazy". Not in a traditional, paranoid schizophrenic kind of way, but more of an elusive, multi-threaded and unique brand of crazy that is difficult to pinpoint with a diagnosis. He has always been the kind of uncle that would let the kids do anything they wanted, without regard for safety or sanity.




When I was a kid, my Uncle Ronnie was my favorite uncle. He would show up at our house on the weekends and he would take me and my friends for rides in his camper. He had one of th0se campers that mounted on the top of a pickup truck. Being that this was 1971, long before the days where people cared about silly things like buckling up their children in vehicles, Ronnie would load me and a couple of friends in the back of the camper and we would take off. My parents would happily wave good by from the front door, clueless as to the danger that we were in from the moment we stepped into the camper.




Left to our own devices in the back of the camper, a group of seven year old girls will try their best to play "house". This meant using matches to fire up the gas stove, filling a pot with water and black pepper (the only thing in his cabinets) and boiling up some "pepper soup". Aside from the matches and gas stove and boiling water, the other hazard that the camper had was guns. Not just a couple of guns, more like a rolling arsenal, complete with boxes of ammunition of every imaginable caliber. And if the mood struck him, we'd stop at a sand pit and we would fire those guns. What? Don't all seven year old girls know how to shoot a Winchester .30-30? Watching me shoot down cans and bottles with a sniper's precision would make Uncle Ronnie laugh. Ha. Ha. Ha.



One year when I was about 8, we gathered for a family Christmas celebration at one of my dad's sister's houses. This was the home of two of my favorite, older cousins, both of whom I idolized. While the aunts and uncles were busy putting dinner together, Uncle Ronnie took me and my older cousins to an office building complex to practice driving. For me to practice driving, not the older cousins.



I would sit on my uncle's lap and take the wheel and I would step on his foot, which was on top of the gas to accelerate. I had done this dozens of times before (probably since the age of six), so this was a pretty routine event. My cousins were in the back seat of the car as we drove down the main drag of the large office complex. I was doing fine, tooling along at a reasonably safe speed, until we rounded a bend and spotted two teenagers on ten speed bikes, pedaling down the middle of the road. My cousins immediately recognized these two as their next door neighbors. Neighbors that they had a beef with.




As soon as one of my cousin's yelled "It's the Lindemans! Get 'em!" I was overwhelmed with a desire to please them and my foot jammed down on top of Uncle Ronnie's, sending his Cherry Red Cadillac rocketing forward toward the unsuspecting bikers. Ronnie started stuttering, half yelling at me, half laughing as my cousins cheered me on from the back seat. Totally consumed by the mob mentality and the adrenaline rush of chasing down these teenagers, I broke into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Ronnie took the opportunity to grab the wheel from me and swerved the car to avoid the bikers as I gasped for breath and eventually peed in my pants from laughing so hard.



Ronnie returned us to my cousin's house and we went inside to eat dinner. Nothing was mentioned to the parents about the attempted run down of the Lindemans or the fact that I had peed in my pants. We never talked about it. . . not until years later at Cousin's Christmas, this last one and the fifteen or so that have come before it, where it is always the centerpiece of the conversation. And Uncle Ronnie? I'm pretty sure that he's still laughing.

50 Your comments, banter and witty repartee:

Susan Fobes said...

I used to think that my relatives were somewhat "unique" until I read about yours. Geez! Glad you made it through your childhood years with Uncle Ronnie!

blueviolet said...

You just made me realize that my brother is your Uncle Ronnie! The only difference is that all the kids are scared of him!

He sure gave you some great memories!

The pepper soup made me chuckle because that is just like something I would have done or even my own kids. :)

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Susan Fobes - That story only scratches the surface. There will be more to come.

Blue Violet - We used to get Uncle Ronnie to eat the pepper soup. He would take a spoonful, grudgingly.

Marla said...

Oh my goodness! I had one of these and my sister is one to my kids. It was all fun and games when I was a kid but I'd like to choke my sister now that I'm the parent. Yes, as a matter of fact that does make me a hypocrite. :-)

MiMi said...

Aww, that's a sweet, crazy ass story! I aspire to be Uncle Ronnie. Only a tad safer. : )

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Marla - I am the same way. I loved it as a kid, but I don't want my Uncle Ronnie taking my kids shooting.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

MiMi - I hope a whole lot safer. That story was pretty minor. There is much, much more. . .

Arizona Mamma said...

I totally knew how to shoot a gun by the age of seven! My dad was actually a proponent (still is) of teaching kids young how to shoot, respect guns, etc. He thinks it staves off curiousity and trouble as a result of the curiousity. I have to admit, neither my brother or I ever had any inclination to play with the guns. Maybe some truth in it. We'll see how I feel about that when my kids are a few years older. ;)

Lin said...

Holy shitah! Uncle Ronnie is NUTS! I'll bet you keep your kids far from Uncle Ronnie, eh???

Monique-aka-Surferwife23 said...

Ahhh yes. Driving on an adults lap as a kid. I have a few of those stories up my sleeve myself. Me as the crazy driver, much like you. Could you even imagine that happening today?!?!

miss jo said...

Gosh, all those great survival skills Uncle Ronnie imparted. Love the idea of a cherry red cadillac as his ride.Is he your SF jazz uncle.

Carol said...

I have some great family stories from an Uncle of mine. Amazing what was considered pretty much the norm of those days!

singedwingangel said...

roflmbo that is so somethign my Uncle Howard would have done.. too funny

Fragrant Liar said...

It's always the flamboyant ones who are so well-loved by the younger kids. It's when those kids get older that they realize that might not have been an accurate perception. But what great memories they make!

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

I'm pretty sure "Uncle Ronnie" was my first husband.

A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

Excellent story!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Arizona Mama - Yes, I grew up hearing the same mantra from dad and uncle. Yet somehow, shooting handguns with rubber bullets in his basement, does not fit the safe use od guns model.

Lin - Let's just say, no unsupervised visits.

Monique - There is no way that I could imagine that today.

Miss Jo - No. My SF musician uncle was actually pretty indifferent to kids around that time of my life. Then when I got into my early 20's he started teaching music at a Jr HS and has a "Mr Holland's Opus" style epiphany.

Carol - Write them up! I'd love to hear about other people's family craziness.

Singed Winged Angel - I guess every family has an Uncle Howard/Ronnie.

Fragrant Liar - You are so right. That is exactly what happened. As soon as I had kids, I looked back and said "WTF?".

LPR - No kids with that one, right?

Musing Mom = Thanks!

Stephanie Faris said...

I think every family needs someone like him...it keeps things fun and interesting.

hokgardner said...

Despite having a herd of uncles, I didn't have a single "crazy" one. My grandfather sometimes fit the bill - he took me out one day, without my mother's knowing about it, and taught me to shoot. She wasn't pleased at all when I told her with great excitement about how I'd spent my afternoon.

kys said...

I love to read everyone's crazy family stories. They make my family look so boring.

PS I'm pretty sure that my youngest is an "Uncle Ronnie" in the making.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Stephanie Faris - Yeah, that's true, but he needed a babysitter himself.


Hokgardener - Oh, ok. Another little missy that knows how to handle a gun!

Kys- If that's the case, you might want to participate in all of his babysitting events with your future grandchildren.

SPEAKING FROM THE CRIB said...

my uncle ron was also my favorite. he used to drag race down the dirt road by our house in his JAVELIN which was a 1970s knock off of a corvette. two seater. no seat belts. him, my aunt, and 3 girls in the front.

good times.

Harlem's A Hatin said...

My family has more than one crazy thats for damn sure!

Sara said...

No one got mowed over, right? Good clean fun.

Conquer The Monkey said...

I figure there is a crazy uncle in every family, right!?!?!?

Iva said...

haha! so true...always a crazy uncle in every family! awesome story!

Menopausal New Mom said...

Don't ya just love talking about the good old days. I swear, it's a wonder any of us survived intact! No seat belts and around adults who had no clue, we've all had those close calls but didn't recognize them as close calls until years later. Thanks for sharing!

Aunt Becky said...

Dude. I've been laughing at that shirt ALL DAY LONG.

wendi said...

Those Lindeman's deserved it. They know what they did.

Maven said...

I loved this!! The PB has a brother who would fit in with Uncle Ronnie quite well I think ;)

And those of us who grew up pre 1980 - sometimes I wonder how we ever survived - LOL!!

Erin said...

When I read about others' crazy family members, it makes me feel not so alone. We definitely all have relatives like this--or worse! love that you peed your pants in the end!

Insanitykim said...

You win! That's it. Hands down. Not sure what you won, but write a book about this man. Then maybe I can win the book.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

SFTC - What is it about that name? It seems to come with an extra dose of the crazy.
Harlem - I'm just getting warmed up . . .
Sara - You sound like Ronnie. Are you a crazy aunt in the making?
Conquer the Monkey - At least one. I have a couple more looneys in my back pocket.
Iva - Thanks. I think most have more than one.
Menopausal New mom - So true. And this only scratches the surface.

Aunt Becky - I am THIS close to buying it for my brother.

Wendi - I never did get the story on what the beef was with the Lindemans. It did not matter to me. I was imbued with enough hero worship for my cousins that I did not question it. I probably have the right personality to be a soldier in the Mafia.

Maven - There was a whole lot of risk taking between 1970 and 1980.

Erin - One thing we've got, it's plenty of the crazy. Honestly, I think peeing my pants was more traumatic than the crazy ride.

Insanity Kim - there could easily be a book about my uncle Ronnie. There are so many stories.

KK said...

Good times. Safety has taken the fun out of everything!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

KK = I guess that's one way of looking at it.

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Martinis or Diaper Genies? said...

Italian. Say no more. I'm in the club.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Burns Blogger - Spam! Spam! Spam!

MODG - Yup. You just get it if you've lived it.

Nancy@ifevolutionworks.com said...

Yup, there is one in every family! Mine is named Uncle Rudy :)

Crystal said...

I have a crazy uncle...and his name is Ronnie, too. :)

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Nancy - It's seldom a crazy Aunt though. Wonder why that is. . .

Crystal - It's the name. Never name your kid Ronnie.

Working Mommy said...

LOL!!! I love stories like this! Unfortunately my family are the black sheep of the clan so we don't have the opportunity to get together with family very often...I think I might be okay with that though!

~WM

Rachel said...

Yes, there is one in every family or in my case a couple of them! Stopping by from SITS!

Aunt Juicebox said...

My dad was always the one who let us do stuff like shoot BB guns, underage driving and drinking moonshine out in the woods. It's a miracle I'm still alive, when I think about it.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Rachel - A couple of them?? Holidays at your house must be pretty wild!

Aunt Juicebox - I think it's males with arrested development that do this stuff.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Working Mommy - Family can be the best and worst thing that ever happened to you.

Amy said...

OMG! Crazy Uncles are the best!!!
Mine used to drive me and my cousin around through the projects of New Orleans. It was certainly dangerous and to this day I can't for the life of me understand why he would have done such a thing. I just remember it was a nice break from his high-strung, nut-case wife!

Ahhhh, crazy Uncle Jim...what fond memories I have.

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Anonymous said...

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