Thursday, June 3, 2010

uncle grendel

I have an uncle named Guy.  He's dying.  We think.  He has muscular atrophy and wasn't supposed to live past 6.....he's 45.  He's in the hospital for like the bajillionth time and things look pretty grim.  This may be my goodbye to him.  If it's not, it will at least let him know what I really think of him.  Guy and I have never said a serious word to each other.  We tease, we taunt, we push the boundaries.  So, Guy, in case I've never told you, I love you.

Guy has been in a wheelchair for most of his life, you know, since his muscles continue to waste away.  When I was very young I colored him a picture of the handicapped symbol as a present.  I still cringe when I think about that.  Also when I was very young, Guy used to give us rides on the back of his electric wheelchair.

Guy's muscles may be handicapped, but his brain more than makes up for it.  He's a literary and mathematical genius and spent many years working as an analyst for the IRS.  (He was forced into early retirement years ago when a surgery left him unable to move anything but his right hand.  He got like a bajillion dollars in a mal practice suit, bought my Grandma a Jag, and lives in a huge house that he shares with my grandma and my free-loading ;) uncle, Jeff.)  Anyway, I digress.  All through junior high and high school he tutored me tirelessly in math.  My brain does NOT do math.  I wouldn't have graduated without him.

He encouraged my love of reading from a very young age.  I loved going into his library...(my dad's old room) all four walls covered floor-to-ceiling in millions of books.  Now he has a real home library that is amazing.  Mostly full of Stephen King.  Though we never shared books, we shared a love of the written word and he always encouraged me to read as much as I could and supported me in my writing.  For my 16th birthday he actually got me an original manuscript from my favorite author, Anita Stansfield.  She wrote me a letter telling me that although she remembered me from my letters and book signings, she'd never done that for ANYONE, but somehow, Guy talked her into it.  It is one of my most treasured possessions. 

In college, an evil professor, bent on discouraging me from writing, made me write my essay on Beowulf THREE times and Guy talked me through all three times, discussing theories with me and trying to help me decide which ones she'd actually buy.  I grew to HATE Beowulf.  It was one of Guy's favorites, so he started referring to himself as Uncle Grendel.  He'd send me sassy e-mails asking how I was doing and teasing me to no end, and sign them "Love, Uncle Grendel."

I thought about that sign off a lot.  In some ways, Guy did act like Grendel.  He teases and torments everyone around him, especially me.  It's part of his charm.  But I always hoped that he didn't really view himself that way...a grotesque outcast filled with resentment, because he is not any of those things.  Being somewhat handicapped myself, I looked to Guy's example many times during my youth, looking to him for strength and courage to simply exist differently in the world.  He inspired me to "beat the odds" like he has so many times.  He is brilliant, he is witty, he is honest, he is charming.  Everyone who meets him instantly falls in love.  Perhaps what I am most grateful to my Uncle Guy for is shaping my father into who he is today.  My dad is the most caring, loving, accepting, compassionate, non-judgmental person I have ever known and is a constant example to my family and me, and I know it is because of Guy.

So, Uncle Grendel, thank you for just being you.  Thank you for your endless tormenting.  I will treasure it always. 



Kari said...


e said...

okay so that made me tear up! I hope for the best for you and him. love you babe!

JeriLynn said...

I love this post, even though it makes me feel like there's something wrong with me because I've never had such an awesome relationship with anyone this cool. Oh well, lol! :)

Really, though, I love it.

And your painting of the temple is AWESOME!! You could sell that. Really. I mean it. Seriously.

And be sure to get a tan just like that one girl.


JeriLynn said...

Oh, and who's the evil professor?