Friday, May 13, 2005

My Dad Makes Sad Sense

So, my dad has been driving me crazy about what I want for my birthday. I don't want anything and he knows me well enough to know what I might like, but it's become this thing that was just irritating the piss out of me. Calls, emails, etc. Part of it is that he still can't get around, so if he's going to go shopping, it's got to be fairly quick or it's too painful for him. Fair enough. So, why is it pissing me off so much? The man wants to know what I want for my birthday, more insistently than he ever has in my entire life, but still... Yesterday, Miss J. took me out for lunch as an early birthday present and that got me thinking about birthdays past. The worst birthday I ever had was my 21st, because I was driving home from my uncle B.'s funeral. (My uncle B. was my dad's best friend as well as his brother and our legal guardian should anything happen to my parents.) For me, he was the greatest uncle, a studious history-loving blue-eyed left-handed nerdy guy who liked to read everything he could get his hands on. There wasn't anyone else in my family that much like me and being around him made me feel like I was a person with a heritage, with family traits. He had polio when he was little and he died right before I turned 21 of complications from that--to make a long story short. When I was little, we'd sometimes meet them in Chicago, which was halfway between our two houses, and go to a museum and have some lunch and just spend some time together. Everyone but my uncle B. and me seemed to run through the museums, as if there was some prize for being the first to get to the giftshop (which, dudes, you never got to get anything from the gift shop, so what's the hurry?), but I'd stand on the back of uncle B.'s electric wheel chair and we'd slowly putter by the exhibits stopping to read. The best moments were when he'd send me back to something we'd read before so that we could reconsider it in light of the information before us. But here's the weirdest thing that ever happened to us. We were at the Field Museum, and this is years ago, before the big remodel, back when the mummies were in the basement all in big glass cases and not in the new pyramid of wonder (unless it's now been long enough that they've remodeled again and there's no pyramid of wonder any more, in which case, I hope a reader from Chicago comes by to clarify). So, it's getting near closing time and we are the last two people in the exhibit, just me and my uncle B. noses pressed up against glass to check out these ancient dead people and their beautiful things. And from out of nowhere comes this ancient janitor and he clearly seems to be waiting for us to finish up so that he can start cleaning. My uncle apologizes and says that we'll hurry. The janitor says to take all the time we need, that he'll start cleaning over there, where we've already been, and that he's glad to have the company. I, being a girl who's already read every book about ghosts in the public library in our little town, ask if it gets creepy here at night. He said, yes, and that he was the only janitor who was willing to come down there alone. We asked him why and he said that it's noisy at night down there, that you always hear footsteps and voices and, sometimes, screams. He tooks us over to one case and pointed at the mummy on the end and he said, see that metal band around this guy's waist? We did. The janitor said, "that's because we had a really bad couple of months where it'd be fine when we left, but when folks got in in the morning, he'd be upside down in there or on his side and have tipped everyone else over. "We got in trouble for it, but someone must have believed us that it wasn't us because they tied him down." The last time I was at the Field museum, I went through the new exhibit and had convinced myself that the janitor we'd seen those years before was just telling us a story for his own fun. But then, I saw, in a case by himself, a mummy, laying down, and strapped to the floor of his case with a thin metal band. Anyway, it's been ten years this week since my uncle died. And I know he's not ever far from my dad's thoughts. So, now I feel like a big jackass for being short with him about all this birthday stuff. I'm really sorry about it.


Blogger Peggasus said...

It's a wonderful thing to connect with an aunt or uncle like that. My Aunt Bernice was like that to me. She died 5 years ago.

The Field Museum is one of my favorite places in Chicago. Yes, the tomb/pyramid thing is still there. It's very cool. And it's REAL. Real pyramid parts. That's awesome.

I usually prefer to go to museums and exhibits by myself because I too read all the cards and notes available. I never get those headphones, either.

My older son's prom was held in the main hall of the Field about this time last year. They were able to go anywhere in the museum they wanted. I kept telling him it wasn't fair, I never get to do cool shit like that. Even now. Except maybe sit in boxes at Jackhammer's games.

5/13/2005 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Twyla said...

What a lovely story. I feel sad that I didn't have anyone like that in my life when I was a kid. It must have been so great.

5/13/2005 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger The Corporate Shill said...

Peggasus -- you go to Jackhammer's games? That is cool shit! LE and I are friends with the "Voice of the Jackhammers" although he's not back this year since he took a job doing the pre- and post-game radio shows for the White Sox. Anyhow -- we'll be sitting in the hot-tub deck in right field for the game on Friday, May 20. Acting obnoxious. It's what we do best!

5/15/2005 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Peggasus said...

Hey, Shill! We're going to that game too! We'll be sitting in the owner's box, on the first base side. Cool! I'll look for you in the tub! What, no velcro wall for you?

5/16/2005 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Okay, fine, I see how it is--all the cool kids making plans to meet up. I'm not jealous or anything.

Okay, maybe I am just a little bit.

5/16/2005 08:50:00 AM  

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