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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Uncle Mort: Ageless Wonder…
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 • Posted September 10, 2008

When my Uncle Mort accused me of “dealing loosely with the truth,” I knew that facts were stacked heavily in his favor. Were I not in his close circle of kinfolks, the charge might well have been one for bald-faced lying.

“You’ve been writing about me in your column for four years,” he blurted. “And from day one, I’ve been your ‘90-year-old uncle’.”

He opined that it’s one thing to round numbers off, but even then, he recommended periodic updating. “Particularly when you missed my age by a couple of years at the git-go,” he scolded. “Charlie Brown hung around comic strips for a half-century, ‘maturing’ from age four to age 8 eight in that period.” Adding that he’s “not Charlie Brown,” he closed the thought with a classic “good grief” exclamation. He threw in an additional comment that some of my columns are like soap operas—where it takes a woman three years to give birth prematurely….

  • * * * *

Uncle Mort added that it shouldn’t matter a whit whether he’s a real person or merely a figment of my imagination. He warned me of my duty to “at least get his age right.”

I was surprised to learn that July 4th marked his 96th birthday, and half expected him to break out candles. He’d already broken into song, desecrating George M. Cohan’s patriotic “Yankee Doodle Dandy” ditty.

When he bragged about being “a real live hero of My Uncle Sam,” I was mulling over numerous past references to “my 90-year-old uncle.”…

  • * * * *

I was defenseless, “hubbing it,” in my old dad’s words. Mort was right; I should always list his age correctly. I pledged to do so in the future.

For references to him until July Fourth of ’09, he’ll be “in his 97th year.”

Needing a subject change, I asked Uncle Mort about his political feelings….

  • * * * *

“I’ve digested dozens of long speeches at both national conventions,” he responded. “Most speakers spent 15 minutes inspiring us, and then 15 minutes talking us out of it.”

Aunt Maude, his wife of 75 years (or so), confirmed his claim. “The more he digests, the more indigestion I get,” she laughed.

Mort, a basic conservative who wants government to just defend our shores and deliver our mail, says one sobering thought is entrenched: One of these guys is going to be elected President….

  • * * * *.

Reminded that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has “zero Washington experience,” Mort answered, “She gets points for that.”

He’s fascinated by the Alaskan’s varied background—governor/mayor/sports broadcaster/ “hockey mom”/wife. And her hubby is a four-time snow machine racing champion over a grueling 2,000-mile course..

“Just think, when her political career is over, she can slide off into the sunset,” Mort joked, with an afterthought that if at that time global warming has set in, she can swim/sail/ski toward the setting sun. This depends, of course, on whether her career completion coincides with “sun-setting season” in the icy northwest….

  • * * * *

Mort asked what I thought about “handguns in Harrold,” the little school in the remote northwest corner of Texas where certified personnel have been authorized to carry concealed firearms.

“That should give Mary’s lamb second thoughts about following her to school,” I answered. Mort agreed that pets “making children laugh and play” could quickly transform lambs into scapegoats.

I remember a convenience store, where a sign placed boldly under a one-way mirror worked wonders. It read “An employee holding a sawed-off shotgun stands behind this mirror one night each week. YOU guess which night.” At the school, maybe all employees could wear signs, proclaiming that “One of us has a concealed weapon. YOU guess which one.”…

  • * * * *

My uncle asked me about interesting people encountered on my recent “speaking rounds” to kick off public schools’ in-service programs for employees.

Pleasant memories include Glen Rose Superintendent Wayne Rotan, who laughed when a soon-to-be second-grader told him why he was so eager to get back to school. “I’ve forgotten a bunch of my words over the summer,” he explained.

There’s excitement in Andrews over new state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Superintendent David Mitchell is proud of his community which has always gone “thumbs up” for bond proposals, including two since 2002 totaling almost $50 million. Center pieces include two new elementary schools and a marvelous performance hall….

  • * * * *

At Brazosport ISD, frenzied beginnings were ignited by Superintendent Joe Ripple, who dashed about leading “the wave” to generate excitement for the new school year. And his enthusiasm “rippled” through the ranks of the family of educators.

Speaking of family, folks in Abernathy re-define “close-knit” as they minister to a senior boy who is dealing with cancer. (More detail on this next week.)

Uncle Mort was quiet as I rattled off details of the 2,000-mile trek that included nine speeches over the course of four days. Maybe good listening habits, so elusive for more than nine decades, emerge when uncles reach their 97th year. I thanked him, urging that he look after Aunt Maude and her indigestion….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Send email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com

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