Friday, August 26, 2011

A Family Revelation

     Man, I had a real revelation a while back. On Facebook, one of my cousins posted the origin of his Dad’s nickname. [Background, if you don’t know my family: My Dad had one sibling, a slightly older brother, who married Mom’s younger sister. Mom and Aunt Peg were the last two of 10, 8 surviving.] My sibs and I had always called him Uncle Skid, and I never knew why. It was just his name, or nickname. He had a severe stutter. Bill (my cousin) had seen a television show on stuttering, no doubt because of the new movie “The King’s Speech”, and posted how he had been moved by it. It was good to know that it was now better understood, and can often be effectively treated. He mentioned a few ways that it had been a problem in his Dad’s life, mostly because he was rejected by the armed forces in World War II.

     He also mentioned the nick name and its origin. When they were boys, my Dad thought that the stutter sounded like the words were skidding. He started calling him Skid, and the nickname stuck. This would have been in the 1920’s, or at most early 30’s. American culture was rougher then; sensitivity was considered a little effeminate. And Dad could be rough. He was a teaser, like me, and not particularly sensitive about it. He believed that making fun of misfortune was a good way to help someone deal with it. But of course it isn’t always. He was sometimes hurt or embarrassed when one of his attempts at humor was not well received. He really was trying to help.

     While they were two different men in many ways, their brotherly love was unmistakable. One time I made some remark to my Dad about being the brains of the family, and he said "Hell, Skid was just as smart as I was. But because of his handicap, everyone babied him." I was shocked; it was the only time I ever heard him being seriously critical of his parents, or Catholic schools. But he was bitter; there was a definite vibe of "they screwed up my brother!" After our family moved up north, they still kept in touch, even though the visits sometimes were limited to a couple of times a year. They just liked being together. Dad’s jobs kept him away more and more as time went on; that hurt all of us, including him and his brother. But the bond was never broken, or even weakened. I pray that my sons can also keep their bond unbroken throughout their lives.