My Undaunted Uncle Joe
OpinionClosing Thoughts

My Undaunted Uncle Joe

Chana checks in with her late mother's baby brother.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Uncle Joe, my late mother’s baby brother, is the only living family member of my parent’s resilient generation. He lives the good life (discounting hurricanes) with his wife and nearby children and grandchild in Fort Myers, Fla.  We don’t get together very often; however, I call to check on him from time to time.

Chana: I haven’t talked to you in a few weeks. Everything all right?

Joe: I missed my favorite program. I had to wait an hour in the doctor’s office this morning.

Chana: Was it your foot doctor?

Joe: Which foot doctor do you mean?

Chana: The one for your toe.

Joe: You mean my former toe.

Chana: Oh, no!

Joe: Yeah, I guess that’s why people hire other people to cut their grass. But who wants to pay a kid to do something I can do myself? Anyway, I can still walk. Where do I have to go, anyway, except to buy a lottery ticket?

Chana: What did the doctor say?

Joe: Why talk about that?

Chana: The first thing you said to me was that you waited a long time to see a doctor.

Joe:  Forget it. Let me tell you about the bicycle.

Chana (with trepidation): I thought you stopped riding a bike years ago.

Joe: Well, I didn’t. Now it’s too broken to fix, so I decided to try one of those three-wheelers. I got a discount coupon in the mail.

Chana: You fell?

Joe: I didn’t get hurt. Just my shoulder.

Chana (alarmed): What happened to your shoulder?

Joe: Nothing like the last time.

Chana (more alarmed): There was a last time?

Joe:  Never mind.  What’s new with you?

Chana: Well, we still need a lot of repairs downstairs after the sewage flood.

Joe: Sorry to hear that. Speaking of floods, I forgot to tell you about our lot.

Chana: You mean your next-door property?

Joe:  What else? In the last hurricane, it flooded, and our neighbor’s dog got stuck in the shed for a couple of days.

Chana (horrified): Did it die?

Joe:  No, but it got scared. So now the dog’s in pet therapy for the trauma, and I have to pay.

Chana: I know I sound like a broken record, but shouldn’t you put a fence around that lot?

Joe:  Fences cost money. Anyway, the dog seems just fine to me.  My insurance will pay for the dog, but not for a fence. I’m not made of money.

Chana (taking a deep, cleansing breath): Well, it’s your decision.  How’s Nan doing?

Joe: She’s back home. It turned out to be her meds. I told her she’s overmedicated, but who listens to me?

Chana: Is that what the doctor said?

Joe: Doctors don’t know everything. Now they want her on something different. Insurance pays.

Chana: But is she feeling like her old self again?

Joe: Between you and me, her old self wasn’t such a pleasure.  But, she’s back to bossy as usual.

Chana (a bit concerned): Can you put her on the phone?

Joe: She’s outside.

Chana: Will you ask her to come in to talk to me for a minute?

Joe: She’s got the hood up and can’t hear me.

Chana: Hood? How cold is it there?

Joe: The car hood. Remember she’s taking that online car course? She decided to find the oil stick and check the oil.

Chana: Actually, that’s pretty admirable. But please don’t let her get under the car for anything.

Joe: It’s safer than last week.

Chana (ready for anything): What happened last week?

Joe: She fell off the ladder when she changed the bulb in the bathroom.  I told her I’d do it, but she got there first.

Chana: Why didn’t Danny or Ronnie come over to help you?

Joe: I know better than to ask them. They never let us do anything ourselves, and they just want us to move out of this house. I always change my own light bulbs, and I’m going to keep on doing it.

Chana (finally getting it): I understand. It’s your life! I’ll call next week to see how the new bike’s working out. Does it come with a helmet?

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