When you are dealing with family, it clarifies things to have a scale. You don’t have to waste time analyzing people when you have a ready reference. This one works pretty well for us.
1.Has a monogrammed straight jacket and standing reservation on mental ward.
2.Family is likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in the past or the future
3.People say, “Oh, crap. Here comes Johnny.”
4.Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never has been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.
5.Regular guy. Holds down a job. Mostly takes care of business. Probably not a serial marry-er. Attends church when he has to.
6.Good fellow. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.
7.High achiever. Business is in order. Serves on city council.
8.Looks too good to be true. What’s really going on?
9.Over-achiever. Affairs are in order. Solid citizen. Dull, dull, dull. Could end up as a 1
My family is as much a mixed bag of nuts as any. As a kid, I was most fascinated by the ones on the fringes. My favorite was Uncle Chester, not because he was friendly, funny, or even seemed to notice me, but because he was the first solid #3 of my acquaintance. (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future.) As a young man in the depression, he started out as a moonshiner and petty criminal, lounging a bit in local jails. He never really hit the big time and made the Federal Penitentiary till he got caught counterfeiting quarters. His technique was sloppy and his product unpolished. He was fortunate in getting caught red-handed passing his ugly quarters. In 1941 he was sent up to Fort Leavenworth for some higher education where he made good use of his time by apprenticing himself to a cellmate who was doing time for making twenty-dollar bills.
Aunt Jenny #5 (Can go either way. Gets by on a good day. Never been arrested. Can be lots of fun or a real mess. Relatives usually will invite in for coffee. Likely to have hormone-induced behavior.) was short-sighted about Uncle Chester’s situation and ditched him while he was imprisoned, but realized she still loved him when he came home with his enhanced earning capacity. They let bygones be bygones, got back together, and had three lovely children. Their eldest son Lynn and daughter Sue were solid #7s from the start. (Good fellows. Almost everybody likes him or her. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Manages money well enough to retire early.) Uncle Chester was perfectly willing to give Lynn a good start in business, but Lynn was ungrateful, distanced himself from his father’s dealings, joined the military, and avoided the family business altogether, even seeming to resent his father. One Sunday dinner, when Uncle Chester was dropping names of the interesting people he had been in jail with at various times, Lynn rudely interrupted, “Daddy, you’ve been in jail with everybody at one time or another.” Uncle Chester did step up and keep Cousin Lynn from making a mistake. Lynn came home on leave from the military and met a girl he wanted to marry; love at first sight. She was a pretty as a spotted puppy and even she noticed how much she looked like his sister Sue. Uncle Chester got her off to the side and asked a few questions about her mama and daddy and where she was raised. He was waiting up for Lynn to get home. “Son, I sure hope things ain’t gone too far. I hate it, but you can’t marry that li’l old gal. She looks just like her Mama did when we was running around together. There’s a real good reason she looks just like yore sister Sue, a real good reason.”
By the fifties, Uncle Chester had branched out a little. He did a little research and decided lawsuits paid well and weren’t too much work. He captured some bees, applied them to his leg. When his leg was good and swollen, he got his buddy to drop him off downtown at a trolley stop. As the trolley approached, Uncle Chester carefully stumbled into the path of the trolley, suffering a knee injury in front of numerous witnesses. He collapsed to the ground, moaning and groaning. Suffering terribly, he was transported and treated at the hospital. Now Uncle Chester was set with a fifty-thousand dollar settlement, a tidy sum for that time.
Their daughter Susie turned out real well, became a teacher, and married a Baptist Preacher, lending Uncle Chester a much appreciated touch of respectability. Uncle Chester and Aunt Jenny were very generous toward her church, and the legitimacy of their donations was never questioned. Sadly, many years later Susie’s daughter a bona fide #3, embarrassed them all by stealing from her employer.
Ross, Uncle Chester’s youngest son, was also a gifted #3 (Family likely to move away without leaving forwarding address. Has jail time in past or future) followed in Uncle Chester’s footsteps. He dabbled in moonshine, petty crime, and scams but just never rose to Uncle Chester’s level. He initiated a few crooked lawsuits but lacked the brain power and organization to pull bigger things off. All went well till he got too big for his britches and tried setting up business in Texas. When he got caught moonshining in someone else’s territory, he called the old man for help. Uncle Chester had to admit, “I’m sorry son, but I can’t do a thing for you. I don’t have any influence with the law out there.” Uncle Chester felt bad about one of his boys getting in trouble till the day he died,” but sometimes you just have to let kids make their own mistakes.”
Aunt Jenny was stingy. You would think she got her money in the usual way. Or maybe she just got tired of hearing Uncle Chester complain how hard it was to make money. She even made her own mother pay for a ride to the grocery store. When Maw Maw won some groceries in a weekly contest, she had to share with Aunt Jenny since she hitched a ride to the grocery store every week. Aunt Jenny sold eggs and tomatoes and charged Maw Maw the same as everyone else.
When Aunt Jenny got older, she got dentures. She liked them so well she saved them for special occasions. She wore them when she had ladies over for coffee, church, and Sunday dinner. Being toothless didn’t hold her back a bit. She could take a bite off an apple as well as anyone and could have won a fried chicken eating contest hands down.