Crying Uncle

“Do you even know what you’re talking about, Daddy?”

Yes, of course….well, maybe sometimes…. ummm, well….

That was my daughter Rachelle’s pointed question after I was giving my opinion about modern music, or what people spend their time watching on YouTube or maybe what they put up on Facebook. In other words, things that confound me completely.

In other words, I’m just living up to the name of the blog that I’ve started. I remember listening to my Uncle Earle, my mother’s only brother, as I grew up and helped him on his farm. We used to spend a lot of time  together during my formative years. I used to think he was old and had a lot of wild, outdated opinions. Now I agree with a lot of them.

Even though his formal education ended after Grade 10 and a short diploma course in agriculture from Macdonald College outside of Montreal he had opinions on everything. He shared them with me as we did chores around his farm. He was a unlingual, anglophone rural Quebecer whose only sister had married a Frenchman from Montreal, as my father was known in those parts. I must admit that I liked to bait him at times.

“What did you think when you found out that your sister was marrying a Frenchman,” I asked him one time while we were collecting eggs.

“No comment,” was his terse reply.

Among the many irritations that stood highest on his list  were the Montreal Canadiens, the governing Liberal party and especially Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

“You can’t have lawyers running the goddam country.”

“Half the bullshit coming out of Montreal is from the Forum and those eggsucking, goddam no-good Montreal Canadiens.”

“With all the problems we have in this country, all Trudeau ever talks about is bilingualism and the goddam Constitution. That bald-headed bastard.” The fact that Uncle Earle was bald himself was never lost on my father, who always had a full head of hair. We never failed to point out the irony in that.

Our heated arguments energized each other as we threw bales  around the hay mow and walked around the farm fixing fences. I was an unabashed fan of Prime Minister Trudeau and I worshipped at the altar of the Montreal Canadiens. Working with my uncle was a great education in itself, not the least of which was helping in the development of a thicker skin. I think he was always a little defensive about his lack of more formal education, but he had a funny way of showing it.

“Some people go to university and get a degree in history. What the hell good is that going to do them?”

I happened to be studying for a degree in history and political science at the time.

I wasn’t alone in being his sparring partner. My father often showed me the way. I remember Dad getting back from a trip to China in the late ’70’s from an educational conference and talking about it with Earle.

“Now none of those fellas can speak English at all?” my uncle inquired.

“”No, they’re all ignorant,” my father answered, enjoying a good guffaw at my uncle’s expense.

I don’t laugh at him much anymore. He died of cancer in 1998 at the age of eighty, even though he was still working in the woods and going bowling seemingly just weeks before his death. It’s funny how often I say to family members that I’ve taken on many of my uncle’s views and opinions, such as how Trudeau’s obsession with bilingualism and the constitution directed a lot of attention away from the economy, and how he thought we were moving away from a healthy dose of self-reliance and responsibility and more and more to blaming others when things in our own lives went wrong. You know, grumpy old men’s ways of thinking about things. The way I think.

But he’ll never change my opinion on the Montreal Canadiens !

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