Cornbread Stuffing: Relatives
This is the fourth article in a seven-day Thanksgiving writing challenge I issued myself and other interested writers. The word of the day is Pilgrim. For the rules, look up Thanksgiving Challenge 2018.
Ever had one holiday that you dreaded most of all because you were around a particular relative you hate? Well, that holiday is Thanksgiving for me. Yeah, and boy did one relative get on my nerves!
“Turkey dinner! Turkey dinner! Gather round. Gather round. Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm-mm… All sit down!”
The fiendish look on his face said it all. An otherwise happy song had been tainted by this ghoul of a man singing to his terrified victims.
It was terrifying, to say the least. Each Thanksgiving, the family, got together and Uncle Frank would put on his old pervy clown get-up and sing the turkey song. And not even that he sang the song! The words! He would get the words all convoluted and discombobulated!
I tried. Each year when that old batty man started up with the words I tried to push my feelings aside because he was old, his wife left him, he had no children, and being a clown was the only thing he knew how to support himself. It was annoying when he came to me making goofy faces until I would laugh. In the beginning, I just smiled to humor him, but now I cannot do it. It was fine when I was eight-years-old, but I am 15 now. Get a clue, old man!
For one, the paint is horrible. I don’t’ think he knew how to put his own makeup on. I could still see his skin for the spots he missed. The hair! The hair looked like an orange cat was shocked and then placed on his head. The little kids loved it, but I was the oldest of all the grandkids. I had to live with this torture the longest.
For two, he was just a drunk. I rarely got to Arizona to see my grandparents. We go to Dad’s parent’s house for Thanksgiving, then to Mom’s parents on Christmas—least that’s how it’s been for as long as I remember. Dad is the oldest and Uncle Frank from what I can tell is the screw-up. I may be a kid, but I know what failure looks like.
This is me remembering, though,
We are outside Grandma’s house getting ready to go in. I don’t dare tell Dad and Mom about my issue with this freakazoid. Most of the time, Dad seems to be making excuses for the old coot. I slip in my earbuds and begin my ignoring of the family until dinner when I walk in the house. This Thanksgiving is going to be different. If he comes to my face with that stupid game of his, I am going to let him have it!
“Time to give thanks,” calls Grandpa to the family just as my last song ends. I planned just to stay in the living room and pretend that I did not hear it. I just want the food. This giving thanks business is for them. I was already forced to be here with them and Uncle Frank. I will be thankful if Uncle Frank is not there.
See, after Grandpa calls us to give thanks before the grace on the food, Uncle Franks is allowed to stand up and start singing his stupid song. I am the ONLY person who seems to hate it. All the adults smile and laugh with the kids. Being the only person my age sucks. All the kids at Grandpa's on this side of the family are below ten years. Dad’s the oldest by ten years to Uncle Frank and the other uncles and aunts.
We sit at the table and in walks Uncle Frank. At least his make-up is finally on right this time.
“Okay,” announces Grandpa. “Now is the time to say what you are grateful for. Frank, since your up, you can start us off.”
Oh, no. Uncle Frank is going first.
He is going to mess up the flow. “I am thankful for cornbread stuffing. It tastes gr-gr-gr-great,” he exclaims will pressing the horn in his hand. At least he is not wearing the silly nose this year.
“I am also grateful for my nephew, Dillion. My bestest buddy ‘cause he likes cornbread stuffing too.” Honk. Honk. Crap! He's starting to get too close to me now. I will do it! I will tell him off if he starts that retarded face making. Mom touches my arm. I know she can tell that I don’t like this.
“Frank, she says. “You have to wait for all of us to go before the song, right.” Mom is great. I did not tell her that her brother-in-law is a retard, but she saved me from losing it. All of us takes a turn-- yeah, I was thankful for the cornbread stuffing if you must know.
Oh no, Uncle Frank’s is doing his song!
Here it comes! Here it comes!
Turkey on the table. Turkey on the table.
Umm, umm good! Umm, umm good!
Cornbread muffins, yummy stuffing
Pumpkin pie, ten feet high
We were so much thinner
Before we came to dinner
Me oh my! Me oh my!
Well, he actually did it right this time. Oh, no! He is coming to me. I am going to have to let him know that I am 15 and not into him being so weird. I’m like a foot taller than him now! What is he doing?
Uncle Frank is doing the face! “Uncle Frank,” I yell. “Enough. Do I look two?”
“Son,” Dad starts.
“No, Dad. For as long as I remember he has been doing this and I am tired it. I am fifteen now Uncle Frank. Get out of my face.”
“Don’t talk to your uncle like that,” Mom says.
“Somebody needs to. You guys act like it doesn’t’ bother you. It does me. I am almost an adult; and he gets in my face like I’m still five. Am I supposed to be uncomfortable every holiday?”
Uncle Frank is confused and hurt, but quiet. I don’t feel guilty. Somebody had to do it. “May I be excused.” I leave the table.
Three years later...
I have not been to Grandpa’s house since that last Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to cornbread stuffing. Been kinda ducking the family for a while. It’s nice to take a break from school.
“Hey Grandpa,” I say genuinely glad to see the old guy. He has not changed since I saw him last. I am so glad that I came to the house on my own. Mom and Dad not forcing me here is the best thing that has happened. We all greet each other. Everybody seems a bit hesitant. I understand. The last time I came here I was a fifteen-year-old brat. I hope I get to see Uncle Frank. I’ve been too embarrassed to talk about my teen attitude until now.
We sit through dinner the entire time catching up on things. The kids have grown up to some great teens, not like I was. My cousins are really kind.
“Where is the cornbread stuffing,” I ask. “It’s my favorite, and we do not have it this year.”
“Oh,” Grandma realizes, her face a bit subdued. “Frank usually makes that.”
“Where is Uncle Frank,” I ask. “I owe him an apology. I should have said it years ago.
“We tried to tell him. We tried to tell you, son,” Dad pipes up looking at all of us apologetically.
“We tried to tell you for a month, but I couldn’t.”
“What? What did you try to tell me, Dad? We spoke three times since November.”
“Maybe you three should go to the den and talk,” Grandpa motioned for Mom, Dad, and me to leave. I know he has to be dead. Finally, I can own up for my issues, and he is dead.
“What?” I say as Mom and Dad stand in the den looking at me as if they are going to cry. I bet he killed himself because of what I did, and they never told me thinking that I would not notice until I came back.
“Son, we wanted to wait until you were older, until now. We wanted to tell you on your birthday, but your Mom thought it was cruel.”
“Is Uncle Frank dead?” I could not take their stalling.
“No! What…?” Dad’s face blanched. “No, we have to tell you something son. It is about Frank.”
“You like his cornbread stuffing,” Mom pops in out of left field.
“What‽ Why?” I ask confused.
“You guys are so much alike,” Dad says.
“Dad, what’s going on?”
“Son, we could not have children,” Mom stated.
“I know, that’s why I am an only child.”
“Son,” Dad offers in his gentle voice. They are about to tell me that Uncle Frank is my Father! Irony! Cruel world. I cannot Wait!
“Is Uncle Frank my real father‽”
“No you idiot. Frank is your…. What is wrong with you?”
“Look, your mother is pregnant.”
“What! So, why all this secrecy about Uncle Frank then.”
“Well, I wanted to tell you that too. Frank is fine. He sobered up and remarried his sweetheart.”
“Dad, what are you talking about.”
“After you told him off, he went to rehab and straightened out. He has been fine for years.”
“Why didn’t anyone mention this to me for years! I have been feeling guilty since I was 15, Dad!”
“We did tell you, dear,” Mom said. “You just left it out of the story. All you have to do is flashback so the reader can be caught up. You did skip over three whole years of this story of yours.”
“Mom, are you insane? What are you talking about?”
“Okay, yes. Frank offed himself a week after you said something. We kept it a secret.”
“Mom! Dad! What?”
“Turkey dinner. Turkey dinner. Gather round….”
I hear Uncle Franks voice rousing me from the background.
Grandpa calls us to dinner. I am still 15 and here comes Uncle Frank with his song! I think I will endure the song. It’s family. I think I will just be glad it was a dream. This was like my own Christmas story. Awesome! Happy Thanksgiving to all! And pray that YOUR Uncle Franks’ are still around to be annoying.
© 2016 Rodric Anthony Johnson