Sucker Punch

About a year and a half ago, my uncle Larry was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  I wept as my mother gave me the news on the phone.  Anyone who knows Larry at at all would describe their relationship with him as at the very least, unique.  He’s a unique little bastard.  Unique, yep.  Indefatigable, ornery, lovable, loyal.

He and my uncle Skip visited a few years back and helped with some insulation in my sister’s house.  After that they rubbed it in my nephews beds.  When their skin became inflamed and the mad itch had set in, Uncle Larry advised them to take hot showers.


Here’s an excerpt from a blog I wrote at the the time:

“He was a bastard.

He deliberately shocked me with the horse equivalent of a cattle prod. He told me he’d caught a frog and wanted to show it to me. With glee, he electrocuted me.

He once moved our Christmas tree into the front yard and decorated it with my mothers bras and underwear.

I woke up one morning with his socks in my mouth.

I watched him wipe snot on my mother’s neck from the backseat of my father’s Mercury Cyclone.

He visited egregious acts on everyone he ever liked. It really was his way of showing you he loved you. Really.

Ten or twelve years ago, the Hardings had a reunion in a small town owned by my uncle Tyke in Washington just south of the Canadian border. I brought The Fish, my new girlfriend at the time.

The Matriarch of the clan had just passed. My Grandmother, eighty nine years old. She was awesome. We’d been lucky enough to have her for the holidays.

There were color themed t-shirts indicating which family you were from. We were purple.

We tore it up.

A very small town. If you didn’t mention you were a Harding and therefore related to uncle Tyke, you got no service, not even a smile. Play the Harding card and you were royalty.

We tore it up.

One night we cousins got to talking about Uncle Larry and how we’d suffered his obstreperousness. His orneriness. We decided to act. We dispatched one of his own children to secure his motel room key. A younger Begat had caught a six inch fish in the creek that day; it was confiscated under rules of executive privilege.

We salted his sheets and crumbled potato chips in them. We removed all towels and toilet paper. We covered every surface with shaving cream. We turned the thermostat all the way up. I placed the dead fish inside his pillowcase. We returned to the reunion and drank with him.

We tore it up.

Last time I saw him was two years ago at another family reunion. He and my Uncle Skip are a pair. It occurred to me they may as well stick thumbs up each others asses. There was chaos that only the Harding clan produce or tolerate. I’m sorry now we didn’t visit much but it sure was nice to see him. I can’t honestly remember if he knows I was the mastermind behind that revenge.

He is sixty six years old and cancer has invaded his body. There are plenty of loving Hardings, In-Laws and Begats to do everything they can. They will.

I will come too. I will make sure he knows I put that fish in his pillow.”

Well, he beat it.  Lost his teeth and ended up around ninety pounds, but he whipped it.  His body was some seventy plus percent infested with death but he smiled, did everything his doctors told him and beat it back.  Cancer free.  As of two weeks ago his back was beginning to bother him but he was up to his fighting weight and treatment was behind him save for checkups.  Clean bill of health.

He was a jockey so he knew well what it’s like to break bones.  When he heard of my father’s recent injury, I was the one to tell him, he was devastated and told my mother he’d be here if need be for anything including to drive the forty foot castle to Yuma so they could winter there.

My mother called today.  It has returned.  The big C is in his spine.  Not fair.  Not fucking fair.  The universe has chosen to shit on this miracle.  He starts radiation right away and twelve rounds of chemo immediately after Christmas.

For the first time in my forty four years, there will be no Christmas with my family.  This is not so much because of my uncle’s illness as it is the result of my sister’s deliberate blindness and irresponsibility with love and family.  Life sucks today.

Drinks for my friends.

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