Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mr. Steak

Uncle Bill, my mom's older brother, served 27 years in the Army, mostly as a cook. He served in three wars, well, the Korean Conflict was one, for purists like my husband. He ended up living in the Shenango Valley, for many reasons. His wife and family lived in Tennessee, after Hawaii, Aunt Madge didn't want to travel anymore.
Uncle Bill came here either on leave or permanently in the spring of my sixth grade. I'm a little fuzzy on this. He lived with us when I was in junior high.
One evening, Uncle Bill wanted to take us out to eat. Mr. Steak, a new establishment,was situated in the Hickory Plaza, where Get-Go, Giant Eagle's gas station is now. I wore a new outfit, probably from my birthday, of white flared pants, a coral short sleeve jacket and my new white clogs that could strap across the back. I felt very stylish, pants seem to do that for some reason.
We all sat around the table, listening to Uncle Bill, with his expertise on meal prep. Of course, we had steaks and he taught us how to order them in a restaurant. Medium is the best. The meal included baked potatoes, except Uncle Bill informed us these were not baked, but boiled and wrapped in aluminum foil. Opened our eyes that evening.
My mom loved her brother. She also noted that he was born in March, the windy month, meaning he talked excessively. Grandma adored him. He always sent her flowery, large cards signed, "your son, Bill." During World War II, the letters were shrunk like microfilm. I was reading these in Mom's apartment when I started doing the family history research. This is how I found out Grandma was married to a Brian, because Uncle Bill sent greetings to Brian.
"Who's Brian?" I exclaimed.
"Oh, Grandma was married to him for a while, but I didn't like him," was all my mom said, with that air of don't ask anymore questions.
Uncle Bill had his problems, but he was kindhearted and generous. For my fourteenth birthday, he gave me a German gold ring with a diamond chip in it. He visited Mom every day when she had cancer. She wouldn't eat, hiding the potatoes from the soup the LPN made in her napkin. Uncle Bill then smuggled them out of the house in his pocket. They were like little kids. He broke down in tears when he saw Mom so sick one time in the hospital, as he left her room, seeing me walking to her room. He didn't want to lose his sister.
After Mom gave birth to Danny, they were at some public dinner. Uncle Bill got on stage, sang Danny Boy for Mom. I'm sorry I can't remember more details. He also had a wonderful singing voice.
I try to remember the good in Uncle Bill. At his death bed, the nurse(with whom I worked with at the time in ICU) told me my dad sat by the bed telling this nurse, this was how he first met Bill after a car accident. He had several. This last one in 1989, a week after Easter, when he had quit drinking, was not his fault. Bowling ladies at a state tournament ran a red light, hitting him broad side.  He passed out talking to the tow truck owner, Chuck Watson. The liver deteriorated to the point it couldn't survive a blow like that.  The surgeon came in the next day on the unit, hugged me and apologized. Again, I was practical, after years of drinking, the body can only take so much. Mom always blamed the Army life for her brother's drinking.
When Uncle Bill lived with us, he quietly went to his room after being out. He never bothered anyone. He was pleasant and jovial. He allowed Jesus to redeem him at the end of his life with Reverend Hicks' guidance.
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