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Thread: Crazy Relatives

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Crazy Relatives

    I kind of chuckled when Tranplanner mentioned a crazy relative (in a comment about a group vacation). This Bear had a crazy relative.....

    Uncle Count
    My uncle Constantine was born in that part of the world that (depending on what year) was either Russia, Lithuania, Poland, or Belarus. He was the only uncle or aunt on my Dad's side of the family that was born in "the old country". He was the oldest of 4 boys and 2 girls.

    All of the others were tall....."Count" was short and quite rotund. In his later years, with his bald head, he certainly looked like a Russian Count. However, as he aged he was often seen wearing a really silly-looking black hair piece......looking totally fake.

    He liked to bowl (almost to the day he died). His wife (Gladys, who was blind) had passed-on many years ago. His profession had been as a chemist at the Pure Oil Refinery that helped to light the night skies of east Toledo, so many years ago. He was a regular church-goer. He was quite bright, an avid reader.

    So......why refer to him as "crazy"?

    He was a "pack rat". This man did not know how to throw anything away. When he died, my Dad was handling the estate. After the funeral we drove out to his modest home on a few acres, about a dozen miles east of the metro Toledo build-out. Incredible!

    Because my Dad was aging and tired, I volunteered to start to go through the house and the possessions. I had access to a big step-van vehicle and a trash dumpster at my workplace, so for nearly an entire summer I would drive out.....everfy day after work....to Count's place and sort and trash the collection of a lifetime. On some weekends, my brother drove in from the eastern suburbs of Cleveland and he would help with the sort and trash. Here is a small sample of some of the stuff that Count had accumulated.....

    About 20 bowling balls, all laying all over the yard (back, front, behind the garage).
    Thousands of magazines, stacked in every room, creating very skinny access paths.
    About a dozen guns, all loaded. I opened a kitchen drawer and pulled out a loaded gun.
    Brand new, still in the original box: Ted William's Croquet Set (from Sear's).
    Brand new, still in the original box: Chain-saw.
    Antique (but damaged) wire recorder, full-size model.
    Unopened package of nude women playing cards. (I opened them. )
    Stacks of 78 RPM records.
    Wooden cases that held original-size Coca-Cola bottles.
    A camper, not taken care of, rotting floor, filled with wasps.
    Ladders of all sizes and shapes.
    Toupees.
    Jars of liquid mercury.
    A weight-loss device that you strap around you and it mechanically shakes the hexx out of you.
    A wringer washing machine.
    Newspapers stacked everywhere.
    A large number of suspenders.....different shapes and colors.
    A flame-thrower. For real.

    He had sub-divided his basement into many rooms, all with tables or workbenches built into the walls. It was strange.....almost as if he would work on different projects and different work benches.

    His basement included a cabinet that was in pristine condition, except for broken glass on the doors. He had nailed rubber casters to the bottom of the cabinet so it never picked-up any moisture from the basement floor. The cabinet was filled with newspapers, magazines, and books. That cabinet, with fresh glass I installed, remains in our living room today. We love it!

    Count also had thousands of dollars in United States Silver Dollar Coins. However, the night they took him to the hospital, his wife's daughter went to the house (she had a key) and took all the money.

    Uncle Count.....what a crazy guy. A collector.
    _____

    You have any crazies hanging on your family tree? What say you?

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    I have family in the Florida Panhandle,
    and
    NO doesn't include RJ or maybe so .
    Last edited by JNA; 16 May 2009 at 10:44 PM.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  3. #3
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    BUN sounds like Uncle Count could have been related to my grandmother. She was old as dirt when I was born so there was no touchy-feely grandparent relationship there. When we put her in the nursing home at age 90 my mom and I got to clean out her apartment.

    The woman was an M.D. graduating from med school around 1920 (got to give her props). She never married and adopted her three kids, she was a bit of a man hater. Anyways, she was was born in Seoul, Korea since her father was the mission doctor for a Presbytarian installation there. She had a lot of Korean and Japanese stuff from the late 1800s and early 1900s, some of which I still have today.

    But the woman was a packrat...magazines and journals, flattened squares of aluminum foil, lots of weird looking medical implements that qualified as torture devices, boxes of slide specimens from old patients (obviously before HIPAA rules!), tons of those free greeting cards you get from charities, clothes that were 40 years out of date, and god knows what else.

    Then there was my Uncle George who married my mom's sister. He was a drunk, but a jovial one and good entertainment at family holiday parties.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  4. #4
    My only complaint growing up was that my family was so dull. They were earnest, hardworking, and while fun loving, hardly drank.

    I so wanted one of them to be a weirdo! This thread is re-dredging the jealousy of a ten year old!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I think the "pack rat" syndrome is supposed to come from having survived a period of severe poverty, especially in childhood/adolescence -- and the urge to "pack rat" seems to grow as people age. That's certainly the case in my parents' generation, all of whom grew up in the Great Depression. My mother never threw anything away. Neither did my father, especially as he got older and married another "pack rat". Pack rat + pack rat = disaster.

    Now, I understand frugality. I understand recycling. I do, on occaision, save a Cool Whip container or a margarine tub if I think I might have a real use for it. I now use fabric shopping bags. I have, however, NEVER saved used plastic bags that bread is sold in!!! My father and step-mother never threw out a plastic bread wrapper unless it contained something that they wanted to throw out.

    My step-mother outlived my father by nearly a decade, and she got worse as time went on until she would throw out almost nothing, so her family got the lucky job of disposing of the collection of bread bags, plastic containers, decades worth of magazines, clothes, etc. They hired a large dumpster.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Large dumpster in my family's future

    My father (now 84) is a widower in a 3,000 sf house on 2-1/2 acres. His collections include:
    • plastic grocery bags, mostly piled up on a couch and spilling onto the floor
    • feral cats (all but one are outdoors, thankfully)
    • sticks fallen off yard trees ("I'm going to use those in the fireplace")
    • cat crap (the indoor feral uses the family room carpeting and the plastic bags)
    • Time magazines ("my granddaughters can use them to research term papers")
    • plastic containers from margarine, cottage cheese, meat, yogurt
    • bulk candy in jars on the kitchen counter
    • replaced tech parts and peripherals (still has a cable for a dot matrix printer)
    • genealogy documents, collected in binders, spread out over a 12-seater dining table and its chairs
    • medical journals (retired psychiatrist)
    • thrift store purchases intended to send to relatives in Lithuania
    • oil paintings and art glass, mostly purchased at antique or gallery shows
    He's not in the best health (I've previously riffed on the smoking and arterial bypasses) and all the clutter will someday cause a fall. If that doesn't kill him, food poisoning will be a factor. Seeing what had been a beautiful home in this condition (Ma's been gone almost ten years) is depressing, to say the least.

    (Obit writers googling this at some future date: please be gentle)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I imagine my relatives view me as "the crazy relation". Or maybe just pathetically poor. It's cost me thousands of dollars to arrange my spartan, car-free lifestyle. It keeps me and my sons off medication and healthy. But there's no hope of getting most folks to understand why this seems saner to me than the conventional approach to treating my medical condition. It's fairly common for someone who either has CF or who has a child with CF to write me privately for additional information and begin their email by saying they will never make the extreme lifestyle changes I've chosen to make, but they would like a little more info about X. The "normal" lifestyle of a person with CF typically includes 2 hours or so a day of breathing nebulized medicine, chest PT and other medical treatments. It also typically includes between $3000 and $4000 a month worth of maintenance drugs. When they get sick, more drugs are piled on top of that. No thanks.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Mom's side:

    I have a crazy Aunt Shirley that, for years, would either be friends with my mother, or their other sister, but never both at the same time. My mom and aunt eventually wised up, became best friends, and never talked to the crazy aunt again, She's my godmother, and didn't even come to my wedding or send a card. When my mother died a few years ago, we left her name out of the obituary, and didn't bother to tell her she lost a sister. She won't speak to her only daughter, but her only son can do no wrong.

    Dad's side:

    My father's only brother, Uncle Mike, moved to California in the late 60's after getting out of 'Nam after 1 tour of duty. Caveat: Not making fun of Veterans here. He apparently discovered some interesting herbs when he was overseas.
    He is making his living as an acupuncturist, shiatzu specialist / teacher, and is the owner of an herbal medicine store. He has spent several years in China learning herbal healing. I can't say a bad thing about the man, except that he got the crazy gene.

    Quote Originally posted by Veloise View post
    My father (now 84) is a widower in a 3,000 sf house on 2-1/2 acres. His collections include:
    • plastic grocery bags, mostly piled up on a couch and spilling onto the floor
    • feral cats (all but one are outdoors, thankfully)
    • sticks fallen off yard trees ("I'm going to use those in the fireplace")
    • cat crap (the indoor feral uses the family room carpeting and the plastic bags)
    • Time magazines ("my granddaughters can use them to research term papers")
    • plastic containers from margarine, cottage cheese, meat, yogurt
    • bulk candy in jars on the kitchen counter
    • replaced tech parts and peripherals (still has a cable for a dot matrix printer)
    • genealogy documents, collected in binders, spread out over a 12-seater dining table and its chairs
    • medical journals (retired psychiatrist)
    • thrift store purchases intended to send to relatives in Lithuania
    • oil paintings and art glass, mostly purchased at antique or gallery shows
    He's not in the best health (I've previously riffed on the smoking and arterial bypasses) and all the clutter will someday cause a fall. If that doesn't kill him, food poisoning will be a factor. Seeing what had been a beautiful home in this condition (Ma's been gone almost ten years) is depressing, to say the least.

    (Obit writers googling this at some future date: please be gentle)
    That's funny! We spent an ENTIRE SUMMER cleaning out my grandparents house when grandpa died and grandma moved to a care facility. Depression babies are known to hoard.

    They had storage shelves in the basement with boxes of candy with expiration dates that were ten years old. My grandfather was an inventor, and has / had a patent on a natural gas toilet (don't be sitting when you flush) for lands and areas that would not support a conventional septic field. Try selling a house with THAT feature!
    Last edited by Gedunker; 17 May 2009 at 12:56 PM. Reason: seq. replies

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Even though this Bear pulled out the straight jacket for this thread......am I allowed to submit a "wife" for discussion?



    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North View post
    Even though this Bear pulled out the straight jacket for this thread.....
    am I allowed to submit a "wife" for discussion?
    OK.. which one ?
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North View post
    About a dozen guns, all loaded.

    Brand new, still in the original box: Chain-saw.

    Unopened package of nude women playing cards. (I opened them. )

    Jars of liquid mercury.

    A large number of suspenders.....different shapes and colors.

    A flame-thrower. For real.
    Need to start working on my own crazy collections for my kids to find. This is a good starter list.


    I don't think we have crazy relatives. My grandfather loved to womanize, drank weird Hungarian home brew liquor (one was in a jar that included a snake skin, couple of onions and intact paprika peppers), he also part owned an auto repair shop that an office dedicated to the hanging and curing of sausages.

    I don't know. I don't have much.


    However, I am harkening back to a long ago thread about family holiday mishaps. This prompts me ask: Where is Maister?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Um I have to wonder if I am the crazy relative when my grandmother asked in all seriousness, over Thanksgiving dinner, if my wedding dress was leather or latex

    My whole family is a bit...odd dad is a nudest in Daytona Beach, rides a Harley with is chihuahua (I hate that dog). Uncle grows his own supply and carries a copy of the little red book. His wife is a Newfie, enough said My sister hears voices, talks with them and then refuses to eat anything with her hands or use any flatware that has touched the table, swears she eats no chicken then the next day swears she has always eaten it. Oh yes and she washes and Irons her money I guess it fits when she has a bird named Peg...but it has no legs. Sick sick woman.

    We are all crazy and happy
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Oh my, just my kind of thread.
    Who isn't crazy?

    Let's start with my Paternal Grandmother. My Grandpa died when I was 5. I have a very few memories but he seemed ok. Grandmother though was just plain off. My mother and father split not to long after Grandpa died so I did not see my Grandmother much. When I did it was usually out in public. Honestly, I never knew whether she was going to hug and squeeze me our scream obsenities while I ran the other way. The older I got, I would not even take the chanse and would turn and go the other way as soon as I saw her.
    I did not find out that she had died until my father passed away. He was weird all on his own. I won't even go into those details.

    As for my mothers side. Well my mom is the top banana...hypercondriac the whole way. It just about drives me crazy. Then about 18 years ago she got the flu. It put her in the hospital in Intensive care for 30 days. She really has not been right since. There are three of us kids. One or the other of us has always been the one in charge of taking care of her. Now we are edging ever closer to a period of time when she may actually need our care and she has just worn us all out.
    For years she has given us odd crazy gifts for Christmas. Ones that you smile and thank her for and then look at each other and wonder what the heck you will do with that...
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Nature or nurture?

    My paternal grandparents lived exactly the same way that dear ol' dad now campaigns.

    --Stove broke; instead of getting it fixed they ate packaged food.

    --Water heater: decided to not wash dishes. (For a while his sink disposer was on the fritz, so he elected to wait until a relative visited, several months pending, who could install a new one. I found the bathroom lavatory piled with dirty dishes and called the plumber. He was mad at me for only a few months.)

    --Rx glasses: used ones from a thrift work just fine.

    --Bathtub: sponge baths are just fine.

    Sis refers to "the [surname] gene." Each of us four sibs has extensive collections, along with procrastination. Mine: huge fabric stash, more bikes than I'll ever need, too many musical instruments...

  15. #15
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Ah yes, my Great Uncle Don. Now that guy was a kook. A brilliant, secluded, golden-voiced kook.

    As a small boy he moved with the family to Oklahoma from western Pa. He was very bright in school and went on to teach English at Texas Tech in Lubbock for many years. During that time he evidently sang live on the radio weekly and had what people characterized as an angelic voice. He was gregarious and well-loved. But something must have happened to him because...

    At some point, and for reasons not entirely certain, he left TT and moved back to Tulsa to live with his sister and her husband. He had a lot of opportunities available to him - I discovered in his things an unsigned contract from University of North Carolina to come start and head their Comparative Literature program - but he never pursued them.

    Instead, he started growing a massive mostly-flower garden in the vacant lot next to the house. He even made a sign that said "Don's Flowers" to get wholesale prices on seed, even though he wasn't actually a florist.

    Time went on. His sister died. Then her husband. So he was alone in the house for some 20 years during which he engaged in all kinds of increasingly nutty things:
    • Make his other sister (my grandmother) buy him booze and deliver it, but not let her in the door.
    • Began to sleep in a bed covered in potted plants.
    • When they turned off the electricity for failure to pay the bill, he just did without.
    • When they turned off the gas, he ate from cans (ala Veloise's G-parents) and stacked hi massive collection of books, journals and newspapers along the inside of exterior walls for insulation.
    • He lost most of his teeth.
    • He stopped shaving and cutting his hair such that when I got around to meeting him, he looked either like a scary Montana Mountain Man or the dad of a ZZ Top band member. An amazing contrast to pictures I have of him as a young man where he looks remarkably like Keanu Reeves.
    • When he stopped paying the water bill, about a month before he died, he somehow did without that as well. My dad went out to clean out his house after he died and man what a mess!

    Looking back on it, and knowing now that my father and grandmother had/have Alzheimer's (or some form of dementia) I realize that he was probably both a chronic alcoholic and losing his faculties. He kept everyone at arms length enough to prevent any chances of help (and to make sure they did not discover his ailments), but at that time, I'm not sure many people even knew what to do other than what he was already doing - rambling around his house in a confused state until he fell, hit his head and died on the bathroom floor. My grandmother found him.

    There was also some speculation in the family that he may have been gay and I have thought about a fictionalized account of his life where a romantic affair in Lubbock ends badly and he returns to Tulsa depressed, lonely, and unable to tell anyone about his true identity. Maybe it didn't go down like that, but it make for an interesting narrative. Tulsa and Oklahoma in the pre-and post-WWII era doesn't seem like it would be the most embracing environment to come out (or anywhere at that time for that matter).

    But for all this wackiness in his later years, he was my father's favorite uncle growing up and they were quite close. He admired his intellect and his love of literature (my dad's) is directly related to the books his uncle would lend him during his visits.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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