Sunday, August 31, 2008

Family Fun is no labor

We've started off our Labor Day weekend slowly -- in part because on Friday, Amer tipped me off to the fact that the Stephenie Meyer book we've been waiting for has been put on hold because the author's manuscript was leaked onto the Internet. She's so angry about it that she posted her most current version of it on her Web site and is asking folks to read it there rather than the pirated version.

So rather than do something fun for everyone Friday, I sat glued to my computer to hear what Edward had to say in the Twilight series. Jeff and Ali didn't seem to mind, and I got my fix. (Thanks, Amer.)

On Saturday we headed down for a too-long-awaited trip to Columbus to see Uncle Larry, Aunt Shirley, Lori and Allyssa. When I reminded Ali Saturday morning that we were making the trip, she looked up from her Mac where she was playing a Webkinz game, frowned and said, "Do they have technology?"

I didn't spell out for her that no, she wouldn't be playing computer games on our visit, and when we got there, it didn't matter. She attached herself to Allyssa like a chimpanzee. Thankfully, 'Lyssa didn't mind and even seemed to like the company. Between the ribs, playing in the country grass and hanging on Allyssa, Alison had a great time.

We did, too. I discovered that rather than being named after my Great Aunt Ann (a woman we'd never been close to and who busted Lori and me every time she caught us being bad at Grandma Bickel's house) I was actually named after Shirley Ann -- my mom's younger sister. Yeah, I'm 44 and discovering this now, but hey better late than never.

Lucy Edelman married Don Bickel and had six other children before me in 1964. Shirley Edelman (Lucy's sister) married Larry Bickel (Don's brother) and had Lori in 1965. So Lori and I are double cousins and just 11 months apart.

Many of my childhood memories are of hanging out with Lori, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Larry. Our cousin, Beth, who's even closer to me in age, was with us a lot, too, but her family moved to Columbus before Larry and Shirley left, so Lori and I had more time together as little kids. Plus, I'd get to go along when my Grandma Iris (my mom's mom) visited Shirley after they'd movedto Columbus.

I was 16 or so at their house when Lori and I returned from the movies one night to learn that my Dad had had another heart attack and was in the hospital. It was at least 10 o'clock, and I wanted to go right back home. Larry insisted on going with me. It was the first and last time he'd driven with me.

You can't really get from their house in Columbus to my hometown except on twisty, two-lane country roads. Apparently I took liberties with the speed limit. I remember him sitting there, holding on to the door like it was moving, chain smoking and saying, occasionally, "Kid, you might want to slow down."

We got to the hospital. My dad was OK, but Larry swore he'd never ride with me again. And he 's been true to his word.

Shirley has always been the aunt who smacked me around when I needed it or hugged me when I needed that. So to find out my middle name was for her was really special.

Anyway, we ate great food, laughed at each other and had a great time. Makes me ashamed of myself for staying away so long.

You can tell I had had too much wine because I was quizzing Larry and Shirley on their early years.

They'd grown up about 4 miles apart, he in the country and she in town but I knew they'd gone to different schools that later consolidated with yet another to form the school we all went to.

My mom and her sisters grew up in Jasonville, so they were sophisticated city girls whereas my dad and his brothers lived out in the country.

Come to think of it, Uncle Ed married a town girl too...something about those country boys liking townies, I guess. Uncle Bill brought Aunt Gudrun back from Germany, and I'll have to find out the rest of that story one day...

In the photo above, my mom is on the left (pregnant, of course, Grandma Iris, Aunt Shirley and Aunt Jiggy are beside her.)

So back in Aunt Shirley's dinner table, in between the ribs and pie, I continued my look back in time. I took another swig of wine and said to my aunt and uncle, "So how did you two actually meet?"

I don't know what I was thinking -- except that I was having this image of a teenage Larry bumping into teenage Shirley at the movies (Jasonville actually had two movie theaters back in the day; it only went to hell in my generation) and getting dazzled by the red-headed beauty.

They both just stared at me like I was an alien. Larry couldn't even speak. Shirley said, "Well, duh. Think about it."

"Ah, yeah...." I think they were 5 years old when they "met" because my parents were dating and then married. Have another drink, Cheryl.

Shirley claims Larry was a mean little boy, and it's believable. He and Uncle Ed used to steal dynamite and blow stuff up and jump on the train for trips to Terre Haute. You can see why the ladies liked them later. But as little boys, they were probably little David Whittamores in training.

In the photo to the left, are my dad, Uncle Ed, Uncle Jack, Uncle Bill and Uncle Larry -- lookers, aren't they? I think James Dean must have used that picture as inspiration...

I'm also including a hunting shot of my dad, Jack, Larry and my Grandpa Layman Bickel for two reason. 1. I think it's another bad-ass kind of picture and 2. My city friends will freak out a little bit to see the prize and the evidence of the hunt that's staining clothes, car and gear. Plus, it's fun to see my Grandpa looking just like I like to remember him -- tall, kind of scary but an incredible story teller who you just want to be around. (If you click on the photo, it'll enlarge.)

Anyway, it was a fun trip to Columbus. Today I think we're going to take a long bike ride along the canal tow path. I'll be sure not to drive off into the abyss this time.

Happy Labor Day!

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