An uncle's insight

An uncle's insight

“I bet it’s hard bein’ married sometimes—kind of stuck with the same person. Most people probably change too. I can’t see why my mother married my dad, for instance,” Richard said, getting to the point rather bluntly.
     “Oh, I can. Why, ya wouldn’t be here yourself if she hadn’t! And that woulda been a cryin’ shame, don’t ya see. I wouldn’t be havin’ this grand conversation with ya otherwise.”
     Bud paused to reflect, then continued.
     “Ya woulda really liked your dad back then. I was just a kid about your age when my older sister started datin’ him. He was quite a dandy. He’d come over from St. Paul in his Model T all shined up to pick up your mom for the dances down in Dannebrog or wherever they had a good band playin’. I think he caught your mother’s eye ‘cause he was such a good dancer—she always liked the ones that could dance a lick. Anyway, he’d always come a little early to talk to me about farming like he knew that was what God intended us to be. He’d always give me a candy bar or something sweet. We both had a sweet tooth too. We’d go out on the dirt roads around the home place talking about the crops and livestock—how much he loved his horses he drove plowing before we all had tractors. Real farming stuff. Heck, he let me drive most of the time—somethin’ my mother wouldn’t let me do. I looked up to him, then, like a big brother I never had.”
     “What do ya think made him into the man I got to deal with?” Richard asked, surprised at his uncle’s description of his father as a young man.
     “That’s a tough one. Don’t know as anyone can tell ya why people change, but sometimes they just do. He always was into usin’ alcohol to have a good time when he was young. I think it’s finally catchin’ up with him now. It’s kinda like the egg before the chicken or the chicken before the egg in my way of thinkin’. Did the alcohol change him, or did he change first and just gets liquored up to forget about his disappointments in life? Like I said, he was a born farmer like me. When he and my sister were just startin’ out, tryin’ to make a go of it farming with his parents, they couldn’t make it because the bad years come. The dust storms just kinda blew them off the farm and into the city.”
     Bud paused a moment, then continued. “Them was some hard times, let me tell ya—watchin’ your corn crop wither away in the drought in a couple of days—the dust in everything in the house even if ya tried to put wet cloths on all the cracks in the house and the doors. I think it took away all his hopes and dreams. When a man don’t have that, he gives up on the good things in life and gets bitter sometimes.”
     “It doesn’t give anyone an excuse to be mean, though,” Richard said.
     “You’re right about that, Richard. Don’t give no man an excuse to be mean to his family just ‘cause he had a few hard knocks in his life. Think there was other problems too, though. Still no reason to be the way he is. Just got wore down. He almost died when he was in the Marines from a dental abscess. Think he had a ruptured appendix once that almost got him too. Now, how often does that happen?”
     “Still no excuse,” Richard said flatly.
     “You’re a hard case yourself,” Bud observed, seemingly more sympathetic to his father than Richard.
     “I suppose next you’re gonna tell me that havin’ to work in a crummy factory with a bunch of morons is another excuse,” Richard interjected before his uncle could get to that one.
     “As a matter of fact, yeh, I think that’s another reason. You’re the one askin’ why. I’m just tellin’ ya some things. You can take ‘em or leave ’em. I never worked in no factory myself, but I toured one of those tractor works in Illinois once right across the Mississippi River from you in Iowa. It just seemed like the men lost some of their dignity in those places, especially if they was used to bein’ their own boss on the farm. That grinds ya down, ya know—but maybe ya don’t. And I hope ya don’t have to learn some day.”

coming soon

"Adventures in Medicine"