Saturday, August 9, 2008


The Baron

That’s what we called my Uncle Jack. Jack was born in 1922, and he was
Rita’s younger brother.


Jack was mentally retarded. I realize in today’s world of political correctness, some people are offended by that term. The reality is, that’s the correct term, a term our family understood and never saw as inflammatory. Nor were we ashamed of it just as we weren’t ashamed of Jack…God forbid! Now, I find it unacceptable to call someone a retard.

We all loved Jack; we all knew from the day we were born, that Jack was special. Special meant, he was a flashy dresser, he always smelled like Aqua Velva, Old Spice, Brut or Hai Karate, he always got to sit in the front seat and he could say the rosary in six minutes flat!

Before I get to the meat of this post….no, we aren’t there yet, which will be one of many posts that will convince you that Jack and Rita fell from the same tree. I want to give a little background about Jack and the way things were in the 1920s. Jack was raised by strict but loving parents in a large Irish Catholic family. Young preschool Jack was very active, and quite the handful for my grandmother, Henrietta. Like the time he got stuck under the stove. Or the time he was riding on the back of the Ice Truck naked as a jaybird.

Call it denial, or just unaware, but Jack was sent to regular public school for kindergarten. That was the beginning and end of his public schooling. The professionals tried to convince my grandparents that Jack belonged in a “State School” as in institution. My grandparents bravely keep Jack at home. He did go to a special school, but I think most of what he learned was from his family. This decision wasn’t a popular one at that time. Rita told about friends not being allowed to come over to their house because of Jack, and she wasn’t invited to their homes either.

The Baron: Part I
or “gee your dad seems awfully nice….”

Jack, who was fortyish, was staying for the weekend. He loved his sister Rita; she wasn’t as strict as his mother Henrietta, who, for future reference will be known as Etta. Rita didn’t care if he was silly. It was a trade off because no one could simonize your car like Jack, or clean your windows like Jack. Now don’t get me wrong, no one took advantage of Jack’s talents. He prided himself as a perfectionist, and that he was. He was also in demand, and he went with the highest bid. It didn’t have to be money. Maybe it was a trip to Baskin Robbins, or Bob’s, Home of the Big Boy. Or some pie from Marie Calendars. There were times Jack had a better offer from Shirl the girl in Palm Springs, and he would "cancel" on Rita, it was just too bad. But mostly he loved working, and he took pride in everything he did. It also made him feel important.

I was a junior in high school, and just starting to date. My parents set a very early curfew, which disappeared entirely when my younger sisters started dating….I think my parents ran out of energy by then, and also knew it was futile.

I had a date with a boy from a boy’s Catholic high school that I had met through a classmate of his. A cute boy and I was both nervous and excited. My father was out of town on business, and my mother decided I could stay out later than usual.

Now my siblings were in the family room watching TV, Rita was across the street visiting with the neighbor, and Jack….Jack was sitting in the living room where he could listen to his Tommy Dorsey albums and stare out the living room window that looked directly at the neighbor’s living room window where Rita was. That leaves me. I was getting ready for my date.

I didn’t hear the doorbell, but as I started down the hall towards the living room I heard Jack talking up a storm. Low and behold Jack was deep in conversation with my date. About car stuff. Jack had a memory like no one on the planet. He knew every model car that was ever made, and every detail about them. He asked my date how often he simonized his car, and what he used blah blah….Of course the conversation was pretty much one-sided, as my date sat there desperately waiting to be rescued.

I quickly gave Jack a peck on the check and we said good-bye. With authority in his voice he said “OK, you guys have fun, and don’t keep her out too late.” major eye roll here...We headed out to dinner then to a party with some friends. My date seemed a bit distant and deep in thought all night. When he took me home he said....

“Gee your dad seemed awfully nice. Is your whole family that interesting?”

Next: Etta asks the all important question, “Jack, what's that on your tongue”?

22 comments:

Holy Crappers said...

Jack sounds like a great person !!!

#1

hollywood said...

ohmygawd...we are soulmates! First,I have emailed all my friends and even my mother asking for my quirks--Really, I can only think of one (I won't sit my purse on any foreign object, ie shopping cart, floor) it hangs off a chair in a restaurant or I hold it every place else...I told family/ I am starting a blog --- I may flirt with Nick (not really, but maybe? You should be dating the pool guys before they die or fall in)

My little nephew had downs and that boy has more insight than most people, is soooo well behaved and my 17 year old takes him everywhere in the summer. Now the nephew won't hang out with my daughter cause she is 'just a girl'--go figure.

PS, you have replaced Perez (although he was getting lame) but I am reading Bossy's log a lot, however just lurking :)

M, Ms. R, Mom, Auntie M, Marey said...

Thanks for the laugh...and a funny for you: When BIG Foot ended school 2 weeks before mine got out, he came to visit one day. He walked up as 3 of the kindergarten classes were playing. Now the kids were used to seeing my daughters visit but the other classes had never seen my son. I said, "Hi BIG Foot," and kissed him on the cheek....one kindergarten boy from another class looked up and said, "Is that your dad?"

marae said...

What a great memory!!!

Grandma J said...

Oh for gawd sakes, Hollywood! That's the funniest thing! What's in that purse? or what's it made of? that is REALLY ouirky X 6. Now I'll be watching women to see how many have that quirky gene...clutching their purse to their bosom. I see a granny pack in your future.
I get where your nephew is coming from. Jack really thought he was superior. Maybe because we all put him on a pedestal?
When are you going to debute into the blogging world? I started very light, and people were so sweet. Kind of like a baptism. You walk in slowly, then once you get so far in....they DUNK YOU! Kidding of course. Most of my pre-blogging friends don't even know I blog...same with relatives. holy crappers are closet bloggers too...they are also lushes! :))

Bossy is the best! Hi bossy!

Keeper Of All Things said...

What a great memory......my kid changed accounts and I didn't notice till I posted.....thats me up there....marae

Karen said...

How funny! Did you ever hear from your date again? Maybe he was afraid to jump into that gene pool.

Anonymous said...

grama J have you ever considered writing a book?? You are a great story teller I love your blog!!!!! Grama J for presedent!!!!!:)

Grandma J said...

Thank you, anonymous, but this is my book! Besides, the fact that you are anonymous will make people thing I posted that comment. Or Nick. Which isn't true :)

Anonymous said...

sorry grandma J, You did not post that comment I did :) I'm stacey btw and I don't have an account set up I'm a horrible blogger lol

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Ok, now this is gettin' good. I knew I could count on you for some eccentric family members, not that you are, but having heard a few stories about rita, I knew there had to be others in the family closet, so to speak. (I only wish I could keep mine in a family closet. No dice.)

I can already tell it's gonna be a toss up between Jack and my favorite Grandma J family member Rita...and so far Rita is holding only a slight lead.

Can't wait for more!

suz said...

That is funny. Love your family stories. :)

Rebeckah said...

Your family is colorful and ecclectic. Your children are delightful. Your grandchildren are adorable! And don't even get me started on JJ : ). I hope your weekend is going well. Kaish is stressing me out a little today. Maybe I'm just stressed from work and taking all of it out on him. Probably : ( I am trying to think of my quirky things for the award : ).

Lynne said...

What a great story! I teach high school LRE (very low-functioning students) and they are both a delight and a handful! LOL! One minute I could pull my hair out and the next I could hug them all. They make me laugh and cry!

My Metabolic Rate is Stuck said...

What a memorable story...and you are blessed to have your Uncle Jack in your family...I'm sure you've learned so much from him...I think we all could!!

heartshapedhedges said...

Oh boy, LOL, all these people, they have no IDEA just how much fun lurks in our family closet....trust me folks, Grandma J has BARELY SCRATCHED THE SURFACE....

As for Jack, yes he could clean house, and when you were married with 4 little kids, Im not so sure you didnt "take advantage."

I remember many trips to Bobs Big Boy, sitting in the far back, with the big, family sized booths. One time, with Jack,,,,we were goofing around, had our big boy magazines, or course! and I remember being so surprised that he couldnt read...hello....he was older than me...never sure just how old he was.. a grandpa? a teen? but I knew he should have been able to read.

Jack special, um, way! I still remember a particular ride in the car, when you told me God loved retarded people more than the rest of us. I argued with you, because I knew, even as a young child, that God loved us all the same, but you insisted, that people like Jack were loved more!! (your middle child is lucky Jack isnt around, you'd probably will that pettipoint chair to him!)

As for the term, mentally retarded, it is a legitimate, diagnostic term. IQ points indicate different ranges of intelligence, and "mentally retarded" is one range. No sense trying to invent new "PC" terms that mean the same thing.

BTW, that high school date....did you marry him?

jlo said...

I love hearing your family stories! Oh, and i love Bob's Big Boy and Marie Callendar's pie too.

Grandma J said...

HSH, no

Pleasing Procrasinator said...

The Baron seems just as exciting as Rita...what a great family!!!
I see no problem what-so-ever going with the highest bid, sounds very wise to me.
Did the young man call on you again?

The Dorsey Boys said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Dorsey Boys said...

HSH, I was wondering if her date fathered four children sometime during the 60s and 70s too.

Grandma J said...

HSH and Dorsey boys. My date never called me again, and your father never went to a Catholic high school.

but jack did scare him half to death one time...I will blog about it one day. I'm sure you dad remembers, how could he forget.