Progress! Breakthrough! Hooray!
Is it the spirit of the season? Maybe. Whatever it is I feel like rejoicing today. HOORAY!
Some of you may remember my post from September called “I Wish it Were Fiction” when I told you about the phone conversation when my uncle denied me. I never explained, and many people read it as though he had memory lapses. That was not the case. What he had was a stubborn streak of grand proportion capped off with an unforgiving spirit all based on a misunderstanding.
Here’s the quick background version. He and my aunt were invited over for Christmas dinner last year at my house, which was also his 87th birthday. They live about 40 miles away, but the majority of it is expressway driving. Atlanta expressway driving. If you’re not familiar with Atlanta expressways, let me tell you that they’re training grounds for NASCAR and keep the undertakers in business. Dangerous even on a clear day, but add to it “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” was taken to heart last year as we were blessed with a white snowfall, and we shut down.
It’s not just us; it’s common in our area that when the snow falls, everything closes. That day it came fast, and it came heavy. Our neighborhood is one steep hill after another (appropriately named Heights), and cars simply don’t drive here when snow or ice is prevalent. So with much dismay, I phoned my uncle to tell him the conditions we were facing (along with the constant radio reports compounding the snowy outlook), and I told him that I was afraid for them to drive up here. Though he didn’t seem concerned, I couldn’t have his blood on my hands should anything happen to him along the way. Not that I don’t trust HIS driving, but those other drivers on the unfamiliar frozen roads, yada yada…
Translated to him it sounded like I did not want them at our house on Christmas Day and uninvited them. Add to it the fact that we were having remodeling done in the back hallway which left our home phone line unplugged for the entire month, when he tried to call me back but got no answer, he was convinced we were out doing BETTER things than expecting them for dinner. For the record, my cousin informed me of my uncle’s thoughts.
His feelings were hurt. He was mad. He pouted all year. My phone calls lessened as time went on, because simply it became too painful for me to have the proverbial door slammed in my face each time I phoned down there. But, I didn’t give up. My aunt, who is living with Alzheimer’s, was caught in the middle of it—somewhere between not remembering why her husband was mad at me and telling me he was outside working in the yard, though I could hear him in the background telling her what to say.
So here we are a couple weeks away from what has become a tradition of their spending his and Jesus’ birthday with us. Time to bury the hatchet? Or would I get the same dead-end outcome? I punched the number (they’re on my favorites), and my aunt answered but not before I heard him in the background say something like “if you want to talk to her.” We had a somewhat disjointed conversation, and then I said—not asked this time—“Let me speak to Uncle W.” She lapsed into her story about how she thinks he’s in bed or something, and I said (again, never having been brazen with either of them before), “No, he’s not. He’s right beside you. I hear him.”
Busted! She handed the phone over to him, and we talked. Really for the first time all year. Visually the conversation would look like a cat and mouse chasing each other around a butcher’s block island. I’d say something, and he’d deny it. I decided not to hold back but to get to the root of the issue asking him why he’d avoided me all year long. Again the denial. You see, this man LOVES to quarrel. He’s a scrapper from the get-go. Me, not so much. But enough was enough. I decided it was time to forge through with my infantry taking no prisoners.
He couldn’t deny it any longer. When I threw in his face that I missed my uncle, (no you don’t…yes, I do…no, you don’t…yes, I do) and that I needed a great big uncle bear hug (no, you don’t…yes, I do…no, you don’t…yes, I do) and that I was going to jump up in his lap and comb his hair and put curlers in it (one of his favorite stories of my childhood days), he couldn’t deny it any longer.
I heard his voice change from the disgruntled angry man who you’d expect to hear talking to an annoying telemarketer to my favorite uncle. He even laughed his laugh—twice!
Little did I know that approach is probably what I should have done months ago. Maybe he finally realized that my phone calls were not going to stop. (I often leave messages on their answering machine just checking on them.) But only when I got confrontational with Uncle Scrapper, did the nut crack, and he began to soften.
I invited them to have Christmas Day dinner and to celebrate his 88th birthday with us and hoped we wouldn’t have a white Christmas. He said he’d check with my aunt. As always I told him I loved him. Though he didn’t respond to that, I think that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to set two extra seats at the dining room table in a couple weeks.