He may have only been in my life from ages 5 to 12 but he is by far the most memorable person in my life. I’m not saying that in a positive sense and I’m not saying it in a negative sense either…I’m not sure. My mom and I lived in his home and I guess he was my legal guardian. At the time I found most things he did and said quite perplexing. As the adult years went on, some of things made more sense like an ‘aha’ moment.
He had been married in a previous time and had 2 kids. He vowed to never marry again. As a 12 year old I couldn’t quite comprehend because everyone on TV was married. What happened? My first experience with soft porn was being exposed to a 4 foot naked painting of him and his ex-wife on their knees holding each other in their arms. I would often stand by the door way staring at the portrait thinking to myself that he must have been in love with her at that time. What happened? He had a tattoo on his forearm of a rose with a thunderbolt through it. I later found out that it used to be a rose with his ex-wife’s name. I can’t exactly pinpoint my awkwardness with intimate relationships but I think he had something to do with it.
He was a borderline dictator with his irrational rules. He had his own recliner chair that he claimed as his throne. This throne had the only telephone attached to it, and the remote control for the TV by his side. He was like a cowboy with all the modern conveniences holstered by his side. The ashtray that held his cigarette corpses and the garbage can were also at arms length.
– The remote control never leaves the throne even if he’s not home.
– Phone conversations must be kept short because the phone was attached to his chair which meant your voice would disturb him.
– You don’t like second hand smoke? Go outside.
He was a man’s man. I hardly ever saw him wear a jacket except sometimes when it was raining or snowing. His hands were stained black from all the grease he encountered from being a truck driver and a grease monkey. He didn’t take shit from no one. No one. He was that typical white man who was born in the 1930’s whose worst nightmare was being called a sissy. I was never anything like him and still not.
He would refer to the next door neighbour as the ‘chinaman next door.’ When I was growing up, ‘chinaman’ was supposed to be a racist term. I would look at him when he said it and I could tell he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I thought it was weird being a Chinese kid and having some white guy in the 90’s use the word ‘Chinaman’ so casually in the same room. I guess ‘Chinaman’ should be no more offensive than ‘whiteman’ or ‘American man.’
We would go to McDonald’s every week and everyone would stare at us. A 55 year old bearded white guy with a 10 year old Chinese boy. It looked like I was kidnapped.
We had chipmunks in a cage most of the time. ‘Chippy’ would climb in a circle all day and lived in a home made from a coconut with a hole drilled in the middle. I wonder if being in such a close proximity with rodent shit affected me or not.
The Teacher Parent Conferences were always awkward. It was so weird at the moment, I sensed a weirdness and to this day still remember it but at the time, I could not make sense of it. The look on the faces of the teachers were priceless. It was like ‘what the….’ I could be a difficult child in school and if the teachers couldn’t understand why before, they would understand after the Parent Teacher Conferences.
I don’t know what to say about that whole experience with Uncle Bill. It was weird to say the least. I guess that’s why I’m kind of weird.