Dad had four older brothers: Gerald, Kenny (the one who was instrumental in spiriting my mother to California), Harley, and Wayne (my dad’s favorite brother).
Uncle Harley was a wild man. He played in a band and was actually quite good. When I was a baby, he would climb down the drain-pipe in our apartment building and “steal” me out of my baby buggy. Then he would shimmy back up the drain-pipe with me in tow.
For his second wedding, Uncle Harley elected to come to our house for the ceremony. For some reason, the happy bride’s son completely cleaned the kitchen at our house top to bottom. Later, when asked the rhetorical question by my uncle about his bride:
Isn’t she the most beautiful woman in the world?
my mother replied:
She looks like she’s got a lot of miles on her to me.
This was a Far From Normal wedding.
From time to time, Uncle Harley would visit us and he would always ask my dad:
Is it okay if I make a few phone calls?
My dad would agree and he would leave for his office. I would stay as Uncle Harley called several of his favorite women. To each he professed undying love and affection, and he signed off with the words:
I miss you so much and I can’t wait to see you.
Once he saw me frowning after one of his many calls and he just smiled his wicked smile and said:
I really do love them all.
Once, when I was in high school, Uncle Harley unexpectedly showed up at our house and acted as if he might stay for a while. The second night he was there, my dad asked me to go to his office with Uncle Harley and him. When we entered Dad’s law office, he told me:
I think you may learn something by coming with us. Uncle Harley has taken some money from his employer, and we need to see that it is returned.
Uncle Harley started protesting, saying that it was a small amount and that the employer would never find him in Illinois.
Dad held up his hand.
No, you are wrong.
he told his brother.
The beauty supply company will look for you and locate you and you’ll be in jail. Here is what we are going to do.
Dad had me type up a letter stating that Uncle Harley had needed to leave Las Vegas in a hurry and that he had inadvertently left with some of the company’s money. The letter went on to state that he was enclosing his brother’s check for the six hundred dollars. Dad then wrote out a personal check and enclosed it.
Dad sat back in his office chair and said:
Uncle Harley has been gambling. At first he was gambling with his own money, but later he began gambling with his company money. He would hope to win enough to re-pay the company, and for a while that worked. Once it stopped working, he was too far in to repay the company. Now he’s lost his job and I have to send my check to cover his losses. Gambling can be a very difficult thing, and you should never gamble with money you can’t afford to lose. I wanted you to come down here to learn a lesson.
That night is a memory I will never forget. Yes, I like to go to Las Vegas or the local gambling establishment, but I never bet more than I can afford to lose. Dad taught some important lessons about money. Maybe that’s why my sister Lindy and I still have some!