bipolar mom shares her insights on everyday life

Posts tagged ‘birthday’

Happy Birthday, Uncle Tom!

Yep.  I know.  Another relative with a birthday.  Well, Uncle Tom is the last one in the bunch.  It is going to be difficult to condense all his wonderful qualities into one post, but I will do my best.

Uncle Tom is the epitome of relaxed.  Nothing bothers him or freaks him out.  Case and point:  He taught me how to drive.  Now, my dad spent the most time with me when I learned how to drive, but Uncle Tom let me take the wheel first.  He let me loose on an old, old car (forgive me, Unk, for not knowing what kind it was) and still laughs about how fast I drove on this one road.  Apparently, I was going so fast that there was no way I was going to make the turn in the road, so he just let me go.  And, I went flying into some field.  I learned to slow down on curves after that.

He used to be a postal carrier.  I know.  You are thinking Cliff Claven.  And there are some similarities, except Uncle Tom’s facts are actually true.  And, he doesn’t have that annoying voice.  And, he doesn’t spend his life in a bar.  Okay.  So, there aren’t many similarities.

My grandmother once said of Uncle Tom that he was the most learned person she knew.  Pretty impressive considering very few from that town went to college back then, including him. 

He reads A LOT!  And studies all sorts of things and actually remembers them.  (Where was he when I was taking History in college?  I couldn’t remember a dang thing.)  He and my aunt hosted three foreign exchange students in the 70s and he could tell you numerous details about where each one of them came from. 

He has had more hobbies than Imelda Marcos had shoes.  But he never did them “just a little.”  He always did 100%.  My earliest memory was photography.  And wildflowers.  So we saw lots of photos of wildflowers.

He also taught me to fish, which he had been doing for a loooong time.  He’s an excellent teacher because he has the patience of a saint.  (Don’t forget that driving thing.)  He also learned to fly fish and how to tie his own flies.  It was fun to watch him do those. 

He loves to cook.  He introduced me to tempura.  He fixed that when I brought Tom to meet them.  I am not so sure my Tom didn’t marry me because of Uncle Tom’s cooking.  😉  Uncle Tom tries all different kinds of food.  And then dares me to try it.  I almost always do.  Almost.  He still hasn’t gotten okra in this mouth.

Now I could write an entire book on Uncle Tom’s woodworking.  He used to make beautiful shelves, quilt stands, tables, benches, and then carve leaves or other things on them.  Apparently, the carving of those sparked his interest in a big way.  He has read books on carving Santa Clauses and then made some that are out of this world!  He carves them and paints them.  He’s always glad when he’s done with the orders for Christmas.  I think by then, Santa may actually equal Satan.  Not really.

The carving of those Santas obviously sparked his interest in carving.  He has attended classes and read book after book about carving birds.  I even heard him say something like, “Well, I was almost done with this cardinal, when I realized that cardinals don’t have 7 tail feathers, they have 8, so I had to start again.”  Now, all of you ornithologists don’t respond to this post by telling me I’m way off.  Just try to get the essence of the dedication of this man.  Okay?

He even teaches carving in his workshop to all sorts of people.  Yep.  He’s that good.  🙂

Honestly, I know I am forgetting probably half a dozen hobbies that he has had and taught me about.

He and my aunt were part of the caravan of campers in my family that would go on a trip every year.  He’s had a trailer as long as I can remember.  And, apparently, they all weren’t the nicest of trailers.  He had one that had a hole in the bottom, I think.  I’m pretty sure that happened after he bought it. 

And, last but certainly not least, he has always been very involved in the church.  He has taught confirmation so long that he is actually teaching children of former students! 

And, I know they must enjoy having him as a teacher, because he has taught me so many things, and I’ve enjoyed learning every single one of them!

Happy Birthday, Uncle Jer!

What do you call a guy who, even though he is as old as your parents, doesn’t act like it and is super-cool?  You call him “Uncle Jer!” 

As mentioned in an earlier post, Uncle Jer was pretty much responsible for getting me record albums that shaped my love of popular music.  (Even though, at my request he bought me “Donny and Marie: Hits from Their TV Show.”  I’m sure he put on a disguise when he had to go to the counter to buy that one!)  He’d record tapes of my favorite songs that he had albums of.  I particularly remember an Elton John one, but I know there were many others.  One time, I even told him I liked classical music, but I only liked the really dramatic, loud stuff.  (Before he was into rock, the man collected dozens, maybe even 100, of classical albums)  So, he made me two tapes:  Bombastical Classical and Even MORE Bombastical Classical.  How cool is that?

My brother and I would always go to Kansas City every year to visit Uncle Jer and Aunt Sher.  (I know.  They rhyme.)  We would go to Worlds of Fun and a Royals game.  Every year!  And, every year, Uncle Jer would ride all the rides with us at Worlds of Fun.  Whatever we wanted, he did.  I will never forget the time I wanted to ride the Screamroller.  It was one of the first upside-down loop-de-loop ones.  He said he’d go with me.  My brother didn’t want to go or was too short, I don’t remember.  So, we stood in this loooong line waiting to get on the coaster.  When we got directly under the upside-down section, I chickened out.  I looked at him and sheepishly asked, “Can we go back?  I don’t want to ride it anymore.”  He laughed and said, “Sure.”  He never made fun of me or anything.  Didn’t roll his eyes about the waste of time just standing there.  We just went back to my aunt and brother and moved on.  Very cool.

Now, about the Royals.  I am a die-hard Cardinals fan.  But, my uncle made me like the Royals enough to make them a close second.  My favorite player, Darrell Porter, first played for the Royals.  When he came to St. Louis, I was sooo thrilled.  I felt like I knew him already.  And, of course, there was George Brett.  We were there when his batting average hit .400.  That was cool. 

My uncle is hilarious, too.  When we went to a Royals game, early on in our KC visiting history, Al Hrabosky “The Mad Hungarian” was a pitcher.  I said something like, “I hate that guy.”  Well, throughout the game, Uncle Jer would yell out, “Michelle wants Al!”  I would hiss, “No I don’t!”  Then, he’d do it again.  And again.  And again.  I felt like I was turning four shades of red, but it was funny.

My brother and I tried to teach my aunt and uncle the card game “I Doubt It.”  You may know it as another name, but the way it works is you go around the table and in numerical order you say, “I have one Ace.”  If someone says, “I doubt it” and you did play one Ace, then they have to pick up all the cards in the pile.  If they say “I doubt it” and you didn’t play an Ace, then YOU have to pick up the cards.  Then, the next person has to do 2’s, then 3’s, etc.  Well, when it got to Uncle Jer, he would say, “I don’t have any 8s.”  At first, my brother and I would get soooo frustrated!  Then, it just became funny. 

The classic Uncle Jer line is the funniest.  (Feel free to use it at your next dinner party.)  At a dinner everyone was complimenting the chef (I have no idea if it was my mom or my aunt) on various dishes.  “Oh, good roast beef”  “Good green beans”  and then my uncle says, “Good ice cubes.”  Maybe you had to be there, but it really was funny.  And, now it is just something we all say when everyone starts commenting on the food.

So, yeah.  My Uncle Jer is pretty awesome.  He even took me to a Rick Springfield concert and we had an excellent time.  I can’t imagine doing that with any other relative other than my cool Uncle Jer.

So, Happy Birthday, Uncle Jer!  May you rock on for years to come!

Happy Birthday, Aunt Vena!

Yeah, I’m one of the few people that can say that.  What?  You don’t know anyone named Vena?  Well, that’s because her real name is Ivena.  What?  You don’t know that name either?  Well, you won’t find it on a personalized key chain rack or personalized pencils (unless you special order them, of course).  Nope.  Ivena is an original name.  Just like she is an original person.

You will not find a more giving, caring woman that Aunt Vena.  She is always doing something for someone else.  Always.  Whether it’s inviting new people from the congregation over for dinner, taking food to someone, or going to Kansas to check on a relative.  She is very giving of her time.

As an example, one time, a friend of mine from church was in an accident on the way to Springfield, MO from St. Louis.  The Jeep she was in overturned in the median and they were all taken to the hospital.  No one was available to recover any of the items in the Jeep.  My aunt and uncle live near Springfield, but not exactly close to the accident site, nor did they even know these people.  They just heard about it from my mom and they took off and recovered as much as they could.  Now, my mom told them the story, not because she wanted them to go get the stuff, but because it had happened nearby and the friend needed prayers, etc.  But, immediately my aunt said, “Well, we’ll go get their things!”  She didn’t even hesitate.

Her door is always open for us.  She provides a great bed and breakfast for us each Christmas.  And, always tells us to come anytime.  (And, unlike most of us, she really means it!)  When Tom’s aunt died suddenly right after Christmas, she insisted that we stay with her before we went down to the funeral, since all of Tom’s family’s homes would be crowded with other relatives.  I stayed with her before my sister-in-law got married and she helped me make a double batch of Watergate salad and even provided me with a beautiful bowl to put it in!  (I love Watergate salad, btw.  In case anyone wants to know.) 

She is also an amazing needleworker.  Is that the right word?  I don’t know, but let’s just go with it.  She does the most BEAUTIFUL counted cross-stitch pieces.  You wouldn’t believe it.  Seriousy.  She made us a beautiful quilted bedspread that I am looking at right now and still can’t believe she did all that work for us.  It’s just gorgeous!  And she made one for each of her nieces and nephews as their wedding present.  Fortunately none of the families have tons of kids!  She makes these amazing Christmas stockings for her family that are to die for!  (She did say she was glad that she only had to make one more for her grandson’s future wife.  They are very time-consuming and they look it!)  She makes little Christmas stockings for my dad for each of his grandchildren every year.  And each one is personalized with some item that signifies what the child is interested in.  One year, she even made one with a computer on it for my son!  You know there aren’t many patterns out there for that!  🙂

She does other crafts too, in fact she goes to War Eagle in Arkansas and learns new crafts once a year.  I’m sure I’d forget some of them, so I won’t even bother trying to name them.

She also has the patience to teach anyone that wants to learn how to do the crafts that she does.  She taught me counted cross-stitch and even gave me the supplies I needed to get started. 

She’s an excellent cook.  She’ll try new things all the time, and whatever it is, I love it.  There’s not many people I’d try whatever they made, but I would for her.  She and my uncle make this pineapple candy every Christmas.  It is AMAZING!  She always puts aside a portion for Tom, my mom, and me to take home.  Apparently, making this is quite an ordeal.  Their daughter doesn’t like it, so she doesn’t want to learn how to make it.  I have told them that I would like to be the one to carry on that tradition, so hopefully this winter I will be able to go down and learn.  But, the fact that she makes it every single year, makes me feel so good.  I know she’s not doing it just for me, but I also know that she’s aware of how much I love it!

And, how much I love her.  One time my mom told me that I was just like Aunt Vena.  Apparently, I am quick to forgive someone.  Aunt Vena is the same way.  Mom would always have a story about how there would be a disagreement between my aunt and my grandparents, and in an hour or so, here would come Aunt Vena with a cake or some delicious baked good and the disagreement would just be a memory.  My mom actually said that she wished she was more like Aunt Vena and me. 

So, Aunt Vena, happy birthday!  May you have many, many more!  I love you!  (Oh, and by the way, spell check doesn’t like “Vena” or “Ivena”.)

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My dad is 70 today.  That doesn’t even seem possible.  He doesn’t act 70.  (Just like I don’t act 42!)

I have been told by many that I am like my dad. 

We are both a little jumpy, to put it mildly.  I remember my mom asking my brother and me to go wake Dad up from a nap and tell him it was time for supper.  Oh, man.  That was like taking your life into your own hands.  We’d argue about who would do it.  I remember walking into his room very quietly and then whispering, “Dad?”  He usually didn’t move.  A little louder, “Dad?”  “WHAT?  WHAT?  OH!”  He jumped as high as I did.  Every single time.  He and I really hate to hear people put away dishes in the kitchen.  As he puts it, “It sounds like they are dropping the dishes from the ceiling!”  I agree.

We are both pretty emotional.  As in soft-hearted.  I like that trait, honestly.  I don’t like to feel sorry for someone (like a homeless woman on the side of the road), but when I do, I feel human.  Like I have a heart.  Dad passed that one along to me. 

He saved my life once.  My family was swimming in a pool when we were camping.  My brother, who could not swim, was floating on a beachball and had drifted into the deep end of the pool.  My dad asked me to go and get him.  No problem, so far.  When I reached my brother, however, he let go of the ball and jumped on my back.  I sank to the bottom of the pool like a lead weight.  I used my feet to push off the bottom and get some air, but then I would sink back down.  I just couldn’t handle the weight of my brother.  (Who, by the way, thought I was playing and giving him the ride of his life.)  I did this several times, and then the last time I thought, “I can’t do this anymore.  I’m just going to have to quit and drown.”  Then I heard a splash and my dad was there, pulling me out of the water to safety.  I have no idea where my brother was, all I knew was that Dad had saved my life.  He sat with me on the side of the pool while I sobbed.  Then he told me to get back in.  I looked at him like he was crazy.  He told me that if I didn’t get back in I might never get back in since I would be afraid of drowning again.  I trusted him and got back in (he got in with me too, of course), and I’ve been swimming ever since.

My dad loves breakfast.  Oh yes.  Another wonderful trait passed on to me.  The love of coffee and a good breakfast.  My day is not complete without breakfast and I could eat it three times a day.  Give my dad some eggs over-easy, bacon or sausage, toast, and coffee and you have a happy man.  I try to always have a pot of coffee ready for him when he comes over.  He’ll always say, “Good coffee, Shell.”  I doubt that it is always good, but he says it anyway.

My dad has hugged me a lot through the years.  I always love those hugs.  He has had many shirts get tear-stained, thanks to me.  A time I remember vividly, was when I went off to college.  Prior to leaving, I COULD NOT WAIT to leave St. Louis and get out on my own.  My family was cramping my style, I guess.  But, when it came time to actually leave, I was beside myself.  I ran to my dad and hugged him and cried.  I said, “I don’t want to go.  I don’t want to do this.”  Rather than stand there stiffly and tell me to get in the car, he hugged me and said soothing words to me.  Then he shoved me into the car.  No, not really.  But, I knew he cared.  That was huge.

As I’ve mentioned before, my dad has really been there for me during this whole bipolar incident.  (Everyone has.)  Just last week, he met me for lunch when I was having a really tough time.  He was my rock that day.

I love that we can talk about anything and everything.  We both think the other one is very funny.  He has a great sense of humor that he doesn’t always let everyone see.  But, I love it.

My husband is my best friend.  My mom is my best “girl” friend.  But, I’m a Daddy’s girl and always will be.


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