Apologies from Uncle Harry.

May 17, 2012 § 11 Comments

Bet your family has at least one Uncle Harry.

The guy whose stories you know so well you can anticipate the cheesy grin.

The pregnant pause.

The guffaw.

He smells like cough drops and, lord love him, he never shuts up. As he likes to say, “I can’t exhale without talking.”

Get ready. He’s about to exhale.  “Did I tell you about the time…?” And of course he has, but you smile. You pretend to listen. Good thing you love him or you’d never put up with him.

This is my hundredth blog post. By now you probably know me as well as you know Uncle Harry. “Did I tell you about the time…?”

Even if I haven’t told you the same story twice you’ve surely noticed I like certain words, even phrases, that I’m a sucker for metaphors, that my view is that the world is filled with joy, or as Uncle Harry would put it, “This old planet is one helluva fine place.”

A young reader of my books once told me, “You know we don’t need happy endings.”

“Tough,” I said. “I do.”

But I’ll admit, it isn’t all roses. Like Uncle Harry, I know how to complain. I don’t like waste, excess, pomposity, religiosity—or most of those other “osities.”

By the end of his run on 60 Minutes Andy Rooney regularly used his time to rant about the inconsequential. Zippers and child-proof medicine bottles and the difficulty of finding a good shoehorn all drew his ire. He was our national Uncle Harry, one who had gone slightly stale on the shelf.

No longer amused by life’s small foibles or stunned by its magnificent vistas, he used a medium that reached millions to tell the world he was irritated. His latter-day performances were a little like booking Shea Stadium for the public slapping of a mosquito.

Slow Dance Journal is a more appropriately scaled forum for an Uncle Harry like me. The audience that sits on the furniture (which is a bit shabby but comfortable) is modest, as is the hospitality. I’ll gladly serve you whatever you want to drink as long as it’s ice water, and then I’ll tell you the one about…

Forgive me if I repeat myself. I explain the world through stories, some of which I’ve told so often they run on greased tracks.

Uncle Harry likes to hear himself talk. I do too. But the stories and comments you add are what makes Slow Dance worth the weekly effort—you often give me fine wine in trade for that glass of ice water.

And lucky for you I haven’t yet been stuffed and mounted like good old Uncle Harry. The unpredictable, like my recent car accident, happens, giving me new material.

But please, when I begin talking about shoehorns and zippers (I came close last week with a post about the life cycle of mylar balloons) feel free to gently say, “Good night Uncle Harry.”

Until then, thanks for listening.

And did I tell you the one about…?

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§ 11 Responses to Apologies from Uncle Harry.

  • deb reilly says:

    Congratulations on post #100. I bet I’d have liked Uncle Harry, too.


  • Dear Cousin Adrian,
    Nope – you didn’t tell that one.
    At least, not in the way that you will tell it next time.
    So, do Tell!
    Each time you add something, subtract something & the prose is beautiful to read.
    I liked the Mylar balloon story. It took flight on an overbooked week for me & when I went to post, I mashed something wrong on the keyboard & it went into oblivion & didn’t get back to posting.
    Uncle Harry is a fun post –
    Did I tell you the story about the time I first met you & Ray in the Library?
    It was about seven years ago, well, maybe more, yes maybe eight, or could have been 10 & you were both at a table & ….
    You will never sink anywheres close to the depths that the bushy eyebrowed grouch sunk (sank.)
    Cousin Jan


    • Maybe friendship is anchored by the stories we tell about each other. I have plenty of writer-lady stories about you like making gators with the kids of the Front Porch Library or sitting together at conferences hoping some unsuspecting readers will notice us, and then there are the stories of you and Paolo at Hot Tamale gigs–you are the only two people who take our rowdy invitations go come on out and boogie seriously.

      Seeing your friendly faces makes all the difference (this is why we awarded you the vaunted titles of band promise singer and hermeneutics advisor). You wouldn’t want just anyone taking on these duties!


  • A.,
    I’m closing in on that point in my life when “old stories” become new again … simply because we don’t always remember them!

    My father had several strokes that affected him little in the physical sense, but scrambled his short-term memory. Once, while visiting him in assisted living, we went to the cafeteria for coffee. He pointed to a table of three elderly guys and said, “You see those fellows over there? Usually I’m sitting with them, reading the newspaper, drinking coffee and telling stories … same stories every day, but nobody remembers, so we laugh again.”

    I hope you never stop telling “old stories” because I never get tired of hearing them. And just so you know, I don’t remember you repeating yourself, so as far as I’m concerned you can tell them all you like!!



  • My goodness MLS, do you get the feeling we are both qualified to sit at your dad’s regular table? We are appreciative of stories and short of memory. I hope the coffee is good–but if it isn’t it will be a surprise every time I order it.


  • ammaponders says:

    “appreciative of stories and short of memory”–kind of a cool way to live, i think.


  • KM Huber says:

    Has it been 100 posts already? Many times I remember reading your first post on the beauty of weeds–don’t remember how I knew about your blog–I had not subscribed so I saw the “advertisement” for weed killer, which made me laugh and submit a comment. It was a good day, that one, discovering your blog and re-connecting with you.

    I, too, am Uncle Harry and have been so longer than not. Thus, happy 100 from another Harry.



  • Sue Riddle Cronkite says:

    Sometimes I try to be really quiet in a crowd because if I open my mouth every word that comes out starts another story. It’s hard to stop. I recently went to a reunion at my elementary school at New Hope Florida, and I heard and told so many stories about when we were growing up. When I walked in I thought, “Wow, what a bunch of old people,” then I began to see the kids I had known forever shining through. It feels so good to see and swap stories with people you know since Primer, they call it Kindergarten now, but it was Primer when I started to school. Uh oh, don’t let meget started on that . . .


  • Debbie Moore says:

    I wanted Mackenzie and I to be a part of celebrating the 100th – thank you for all the memories and thought provoking stories you have shared and will continue to bless upon us. You are so very humble to think of thanking all of us us – how about I think you are giving us champagne and chocolate covered strawberries in exchange for our glasses of water? Thank you for continuing to be such a friend and giving meaning and heart to words for a delicate reader and a grateful Mom! Mackenzie is a soul that has the hope of happy endings with every story she reads, “hears” and tells. Perhaps Mackenzie is one of MY best happy endings and she turned 21 this week!


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