But I have this brother-in-law. His name is Jeff. Okay, his name is Robert, but we all call him Jeff. Jeff is the dearest, gentlest bear of a man. A sweetheart, the kind of guy you can pour out all your troubles to and be certain of a sympathetic yet pragmatic ear. Married to my elder sister for 38 years, he's been a stellar husband, father and provider. Good table manners, too. Courteous and considerate of others. You can pretty much take him anywhere. But one of these days he's going to show up in one of my stories.
Jeff is not a reader. No books, magazines, newspapers, nada. He glides through life, never listening to any news more current than the weather report. In all the decades I've known him I have only once, outside of church, seen him with a book in his hands: He was reading Goldilocks to his great-niece, sort of. That is, he was turning the pages and she was telling him the story punctuated frequently with her favorite word: Why?
And I think it is this lack of close contact with the English language in print that has caused Jeff's vocabulary to become a thing of curiosity and a joy forever. Whether he chooses the wrong word or makes up a new one, he manages to twist the meanings of his sentences in ways unique and startling.
At a family gathering before the death of my father, Jeff wanted to get a photo of the clan. This was, he assured us, a kodiak moment. Another of those moments was probably the picture my face made when he told me the VA would give him radioactive pay for his disability. Yeah. That one took me a few seconds to translate.
I promise you, he is blissfully unaware of the impact of these declarations. As in the time when Jeff said he could never have been an office worker, as I once was. He said he couldn't stand to be cooped up all day in one of those pubicles. Well. Who could blame him? Some time later I was amazed to learn that the word 'pubicle' has entered our vocabulary and it refers to a bathroom that has been made into an office. Nope, can't say I'd care to spend nine-to-five in a pubicle either. But somehow I don't think Jeff was ahead of the curve when he said that word.
You can only imagine what he does to song lyrics. As his wife and I are both life long Beatlemaniacs, we don't go long without hearing their music. Do you know the words to Let It Be?
When I find myself in times of troubleTry singing along with Jeff:
Mother Mary comes to me...
When I find myself in times of troubleWe were pretty sure he did that one on purpose, but he certainly acted innocent when we called him on it. Because of another incident later on we decided he was innocent, and we also decided his daughter, Amanda, the wide-eyed recipient of the "embalming cream," had inherited his verbal malady. Looking over the menu at a Chinese restaurant, Mandy was startled -- as we all were -- to find Human Chicken on the menu. And she wasn't half as amused as I was when she discovered that her flight home was scheduled with Pinochle -- sorry, that's Pinnacle -- Airlines. Those slips could have been merely coincidental but one day as Mandy sang along to The Beatles' Help!, we realized her condition was a genetic reflection of her father. Her version of that famous song?
Mother Nature calls to me...
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down,What's that old t-shirt slogan? "The gene pool could use a little chlorine." Well, if you're at all concerned about the gene pool, you may be relieved to learn that as of this writing, Amanda -- an only child herself -- has not replicated.
And I do appreciate your feelin' 'round.