LEARNED FROM THE BEST: 2 of
my mom's brothers, Alex and Stellie
The first dirty joke I ever heard a grownup tell came courtesy of my mother’s brother, Angus Joe MacIsaac. It happened more than 50 years ago but left such an impression that even today, if you phone me, I can tell you the joke. It was about women wearing burlap undies.I was probably six. We were in Angus Joe's living room, just me, him and his brother — my Godfather — Hugh.
Not only was it the first dirty joke I’d heard an adult tell, it was the first sign I got that there exists—in the same book of universal truths that says “No April Fools’ Jokes After Noon” — An Uncle’s Code of Conduct.I know this because I had the best uncles possible. My father Tom’s super generous brother Ed was a constant in our life growing up in Sudbury; and my mom’s brothers Angus, Hugh, Alex and Stellie were always there for us, in body as well as in spirit. (And spirits, plural, if you catch my drift.) Also, we had my aunts’ husbands. I won’t list them here because it’d take up too much space. They weren’t related by blood but still — uncles we could count on.
With that, and in recognition of Monday, February 18th being the Province of Ontario’s annual “Family Day Holiday,” I have produced the following:
The Uncle’s 10 Commandments.
1. Thou shalt see no faults in thy nephews and/or nieces;
2. Thou shalt brag about thy nieces and nephews whenever thou gets a chance;
3. Thou shalt keep thy nephews’ and nieces’ secrets, if they want you to. Like if they smoketh cigarettes and desireth to not let on to their folks, you must let them.
4. Thou shalt give nephews and nieces money if they need it;
5. Thou shalt lay a little cash on them even if they don’t need it, too, sometimes;
6. It goeth without saying that thou shalt always pick up the tab when you go out with them;
7. Thou shalt allow your nephews or nieces the useth of your vehicle;
8. Thou shalt aid and abet their artistic endeavours. When I was in university and living with my aunt Leona, we were at her kitchen table one night drinking beer and I happened to be doodling on a piece of paper. She said “Peter! You’re an artist.” Nobody before or since suggested I had any flair for drawing. I’ve clung to Leona’s comment like a drowning man clings to a life raft. And yes, I know, Leona wasn’t technically an uncle. But turns out these commandments are gender neutral. Leona — my dad’s sister — was the Nadia Comaneci of aunting; she by whom all other aunts should be measured and deserving of not only her own blog entry but maybe a book on how to aunt. But I digress.)
9. Thou shalt NOT expect nephews or nieces to pay any attention to you unless they want to; they have more important things to do for Pete’s sake and are not obliged to worry about their old uncles and aunts.
10. But and this one's most important of them all — on the off chance that your nephew and/or niece pays any attention to you whatsoever — thou shalt consider thyself the luckiest S.O.B. on the planet.