My Uncle Donny was a big man, with a big heart. His hugs would engulf you in love. His basement filled with trophies from one of his favorite past times. He was the quintessential hunter.
For this sensitive child, I was both dazzled and terrified of the basement. A place where we played games with our cousins, watched tv, had sleep overs and were a part of this great big extended McCue family.
This morning I was busy creating an outline for a book I am writing about teaching children to write about their natural history to capture those moments where silliness, love, and fear come together in one place, and these stories of our family history came to mind.
Earlier this summer, my father passed away and on the very same day my beloved Aunt Kay left the world too. It was as if Kay said, well if Harry is leaving the party must be changing locations and off she went.
You see the McCue’s are famous for their Christmas time visiting from house to house. Our mother would tell us the stories of how they would begin at one house and end up at another, picking up wandering Irish family members, a few wayward Polish folks, and at least one feisty Italian wherever they went.
My Uncle Dewey, told me a story this past summer about a trick he played on my Uncle Donny many years ago. You can see by the beginning of this story Donny was larger than life. He was a policeman and a hunter, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and dear friend to my dad, Harry. He was always right there in the middle of whatever shenanigans were happening with my dad and Uncle Mike.
I remember my mother telling me that Maude, my maternal grandmother, made Donny hide his motorcycle when he was dating my Aunt Ree Ree so that the neighbors would not see it.
Uncle Donny invited Uncle Dewey, who is really named Gerald but that is a story for another day, to go hunting with him. Dewey was formerly in the Army, so he knew how to shoot a gun as he told it, but he wasn’t a hunter.
At one point as they were walking for hours through brush and other such natural obstacles, Donny and Dewey were separated. At which point Dewey decided to take that as an opportunity to head back to the car, not having a love of the inner hunter spurring him on, but what he did next made me laugh on a day where laughter was in short supply.
Dewey thought it would be fun to play a trick on Donny and decided to hide. As he watched Donny walk up and down the road, looking more and more worried as he called his name, Dewey held back his laughter so that he would not give away his position. True to his Army training, he was completely hidden in plain sight a few feet from the pacing Donny.
I can only imagine the thoughts running through his head, if I lose Dewey, Ree Ree and the rest of them are going to kill me, or at the very least I will never hear the end of it.
At some point in this parade of Donny searching for his lost, possibly hurt brother-in-law, Dewey decided that Donny had probably had enough and decided to show himself. His quirky grin was leading the way.
I asked Dewey what happened next, and all he said was that Donny never asked him to go hunting again.
Take the time to write down your family stories. They are what bind us together and help us make sense of the world.