Monday, May 14, 2018

Time with Uncle Jack

A few years ago, I was briefly staying with my uncle, just to keep my eye on him a little bit after he had a non-invasive, non-emergency procedure that required anesthesia. (Mostly because a) he is a pain pill lightweight and once passed out after taking a SINGLE vicodin and b) because he'd be alone in the house otherwise and I am not OK with that.)

Our relationship now (in the post-living together while caring for Grandmother years) is a pretty easy one, but he still has his boundaries and I have mine, and we both try really hard not to cross them. (And I also try really hard to steer other people away from his, because he has a tendency to be.... gruff when his boundaries are crossed, and I like it when other people like him and don't think he's a grump all the time - because he isn't.)

Anyways what I was going to say was that he's nervous about a medical thing, and I know how that is. And he doesn't want to talk about it, except he kind of does want to talk about it, but only sometimes and only on his own terms. So my role right now has been mostly distractionary - we spent hours talking about family history this morning, looking through old pictures (we have a shared love of organization, geneology & family stories), and tonight were up past midnight talking about cars and racing. I now know approximately 300% more about cars and racing then I did when we started talking, but considering that my initial knowledge was basically "Cars can go fast", that is still not saying much.

I am in no way interested in cars and/or racing - if you'll recall, I do not even drive-, but I am interested in my uncle, who loves both of those things and was both a racer and an instructor at some pretty prestigious tracks, back a decade or so ago. I knew that if I could listen long enough to get past the "Formula one tracks in Germany with deadly sounding names that only people with suicidal tendencies would so much as go near" info dumping, then, eventually, we'd get to the good parts.

Here were the good parts:

  • When asked who some of his favorite students were, or who he thought were the easiest students to teach, he said "Hands down: Women." Which was unexpected. He followed up with this anecdote - A married couple signed up for the weekend of lessons: the husband was a semi-experienced racer (but in a different type of racing), his wife seemed excited to be there, but really just along for the ride. During the husband's trips around the track, he was super aggressive with the car - constantly 'overshifting' and forcing the car to comply with what the man thought it should be capable of doing, instead of what Uncle Jack was telling him it should be doing. It was so 'twitchy and frenetic' that he had to pull him over into the pit and make him calm down before he would let him continue his lessons. The wife on the other hand listened to what Uncle Jack had to recommend, eased the car into and through the turns and whatnot, stayed calm and unflappable during her laps. "It was as if we were in a completely different car", he said. At the end of the weekend, the husband had been demoted two classes (from an advanced intermediate down to a novice) and the wife had been promoted from novice to intermediate. The husband's aggression did not remain on the track, and he vowed never to return. I guarantee you that if that couple is still together, that is a story the woman tells over and over again, loudly and proudly. "Remember when you were such an egotistical ass that our instructor demoted you? And I was my normal awesome self and got an unexpected promotion? We should totally do that again." I would tell that story often (and would probably be divorced, but that's beside the point.) 
  • Uncle Jack had three near misses in his track career - one spin out (due to rain, a rough turn and a hill that he didn't hit just right), and two students who somehow managed to power through well enough not to wind up hurting anybody. One of which he successfully guided through the near crash "just keep focusing on the furthest point of the track and gogogogogogo" he told him, as they nearly slid off one side but managed to keep all but the back tire on the track, in the end; And the other  where they did wind up going completely off track but were luckily uninjured.
  • also blah blah blah sports stuff

But between our chats and discussions and the things we're not discussing, one of my favorite things about being here is the companionable silence. We can spend hours just sitting - in the same room, or across the hall from each other - each doing their own thing (I'm =shocker = reading; he's watching hockey) for hours, but it's not ... uncomfortable. It's an easy, light shared silence and I don't feel compelled to rush in to fill it up. (As my social awkward self usually does.)

It's a nice feeling, and today's Uncle Jack's birthday, so maybe I can run over there and spend some time with him.  

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