This week’s Tuesday Tale:
All I wanted was a glass of water. If it hadn’t been for the water, I would not be downstairs in the family room when Uncle Jacobs had a heart attack. I was seventeen years old. It was Christmas vacation. The whole family was set to arrive in no less than five hours. Uncle Jacobs arrived the night before because he lived just down the road and the water pipes in his house had burst. Reluctantly, Dad agreed to let him stay with us until it was fixed.
Dad and Uncle Jacobs did not get along, they never had. Uncle Jacobs was Mom’s brother and without any argument it was collectively agreed among our family that he was crazy. But we don’t live in the era where family members get locked up for being a little strange, we just deal with them. And we live in a region where everyone has one of those sort of family members. Everyone understands that and everyone has been instructed since childhood to forgive and ignore those quirky folks. The way we see it, Uncle Jacobs never harmed anyone, he was just a pain to deal with sometimes.
That morning Mom was at the grocery store with my sisters buying two more ingredients that she forgot. If she spent everyday for the last week in that place gathering ingredients, she would still have forgotten two. That was just the way things happened around here. Dad said grocery shopping was more of a social outing than a chore for her and that he didn’t mind as long as the bills were reasonable and the food tasted good.
Dad and Mom tolerated each other. I think whatever romance was between them died after my sister Katie came along. They hadn’t planned on her. They had four children and were done. When Katie came, I think they just didn’t know how to interact with each other anymore.
Getting back to Uncle Jacobs, I came down the stairs, turned the corner and he jumps out of the recliner. I don’t know why he jumped. Maybe I scared him, I don’t know. He looked more like he was trying to startle me than I had scared him. Uncle Jacobs was always doing strange things to get attention. He pointed to something out the window, but I knew better than to fall for that old trick so I laughed at him and walk by to go to the kitchen. I was thirsty, remember?
As I get to the kitchen I hear this loud thud. I knew straight away what had happened, at least I thought I did. You see Mom insisted that we have this giant, fake tree every year and every year Dad would argue that we should have a live tree. Mom always won. The giant, fake tree had the wobbliest base and at least once during the holidays even a preacher could bet in good consciousness that the tree would fall over. Once it fell over on Grandma while everyone was opening gifts. She was fine. Grandma was like that, nothing could harm her, except liver failure. She’d still be around if it weren’t for that.
I turn back around hoping that the tree didn’t fall on Uncle Jacobs, but fully prepared to lift the plastic giant off him. I’m a strong kid, you have to be with four women in the house because they’re always asking you to help them with something heavy or open a pickle jar. Women around here just assume you have to be strong because you’re of the masculine sex.
Well, the tree didn’t fall. I’ll admit I was surprised to see it still standing rather plum in the corner with the bright, gold star slightly off kilter on top. It was Uncle Jacobs who had hit the ground. I didn’t see him at first because the recliner was blocking his collapsed form. I heard him though. He was moaning and moaning. I rushed around the chair and found him gripping his chest just like they do in the movies. That was the only reason I knew he was having a heart attack. I ran to the phone and dialed 9-1-1. I did everything they tell you to do in the movies. I even found aspirin and stuck it under his tongue.
I really thought he would die right there on our living room floor the day before Christmas. He looked awful and there wasn’t a thing I could do but watch for the ambulance to arrive. Those boys took forever to get there.
Mom got back from the grocery store just after the ambulance arrived. I greeted her at the door to prevent my sisters from seeing the paramedics shock his bare chest. A half-clothed Uncle Jacobs was not a sight for innocent, female eyes.
The medics got him breathing again. They said his heart was beating normal. I thought they would have to shock Mom too when she got so white she nearly fainted, but I sat her down on a chair and she pulled herself together. They took Uncle Jacobs to the hospital, making it the first Christmas without crazy Uncle Jacobs to make us laugh. We missed him as we opened our presents around the plastic, giant tree, but he was back next year and made up for it. As for me, I’m just glad I wanted that glass of water.
Thank you for reading! I’m sure you enjoyed the visual aid of Courtney Boose’s artwork. What memorable occurrences happened at your family holiday gathering?