#39 HosedPosted: January 11, 2013
When I was home for the first week of this New Year with my wonderful nephew and his wonderful wife, we swapped memories as we patch together our own family and history quilt. We never had holidays at tables with the re-telling of stories. Like how at a gas station in Arizona in the 50’s, Dad’s temper got to him and he backed the car into a stack of Coke crates. I mean say ten wooden crates of at least two dozen glass bottles each. Every single crate fell over, every single bottle fell out. No one dared speak, and not one bottle dared brake as they rolled onto the highway. Or one of the many times he played Santa at a Coast Guard air station. One year he leaned out of the hovering helicopter and split the back of the Santa suit. He was patched together with paper clips. Or how one year a kid recognized Dad/Santa by his unique watch band and said a big “Hi Mr. Hainstock” therefore informing my brother about Santa. Or how it was better to have my seat behind him in the car because he couldn’t reach me, but with the window open, sometimes he’d spit.
My nephew and I talked and talked and I nattered on from my memory. I want him to have the history. So I recounted stories about my mother’s second husband. He was a grand-father figure to my nephew as a little boy but I didn’t know if he knew about his life.
I started with how he had gone to the same high school in St. Louis about 12 years before my mother. Some of these stories he told me, some my mother told me. This was around 1970 and by then he was past retirement age and paving roads for the county. But as a young man he ran rum or gin or something illegal to Illinois to put himself through college. He either knew, met or took flying lessons from Charles Lindbergh. In the 30’s he was an engineer with Dupont and built plants for them around the world, living in England, South America and even Georgia. Those are the ones I remember. He attended the opening night in Atlanta of Gone With the Wind. During the war he was secretly recruited by the government to build the Hanford Plant. He was a quiet guy and he’d only talk about these things after a glass of wine. During the building of Hanford, his son had to be escorted to school by something like today’s Secret Service. We’re talking about “The” bomb here. Oh I’m not sure of the order but he was brought in to help find out what happened to the famous collapse of “Galloping Gertie,” the bridge you’ve probably seen in news reel footage in Washington State, 1940, when it began acting like a sail in the wind. He bought a chicken farm and was the neighbor of Betty MacDonald who wrote The Egg and I. He knew the real Ma and Pa Kettle. His wife died and then he and his second wife had a farm in Sequim, Washington. She died in a terrible flu epidemic and next he married my mother. By then he was about 65 and paving roads.
My nephew looked at me with his head tilted indicating that either he didn’t believe a word I said or didn’t believe I could believe a word Huber had said. In spite of the fact that Huber had whacked me with his cane near the end of his life, I always thought he was quiet but had had a fascinating life. Or he didn’t? I looked back at Ryan and now there was a little smile on his face. What? None of it true? I believed all this for over 40 years? None of it? Come on, some of it? Any of it?
Several times that day and then the next day a wave of oh crap came over me.
When my nephew and I hiked with a couple of my high school friends who were in town, I put these stories to the guys. And I got pretty much the same look back I had from Ryan the previous day. Really! There must have been something. He must have known the author of The Egg and I (played in the movie by Claudette Colbert). They allowed that maybe he met her, or he read her book, or maybe he was a sort of neighbor.
Now I needed to know if he was enjoying a wry sense of humor or was he a sociopath? I did a mental time line of those events and ran out of heart to go on with it. It’s possible. But then I remembered that Gone With The Wind was my mother’s all time favorite movie. I was taking flying lessons back when he told me about his adventures with Lucky Lindy. And my mother loved Claudette Colbert. Have you seen The Usual Suspects?
I no longer believe that Charles Lindbergh taught my mother’s husband to fly.