Monday, November 12, 2007

My Great Uncle Bert

In the beginning of September, I attended a family reunion in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. It was my stepfather's father's side of the family. He reconnected with them while I was living in California, and this was my first opportunity to go and meet some of his extended family on his father's side. The setting was beautiful, a large lodge on a private beach in a gigantic privately owned nature reserve.
My stepfather's father has been deceased for many years. Although my stepfather has been part of my life for about 35 years now, long enough for me to call him Dad, I had never met his dad. My Great Uncle Bert was his father's brother. I gravitated to him immediately, and he to me. He was a wonderful old character, in his late eighties, but sharp as a whip. We sat and talked about my vocation, which he'd wished had been his, and building boats. He's done it, and I've always dreamed of doing it, once I retire. I convinced him we should start a company, building hand made wooden strip canoes called "Wickapissa Canoe Company." (That's Maine speak , it's "wicked pisser" which means really cool, with a Maine accent) I really enjoyed meeting, and spending time with him and his wife of 54 years, Jean, who is a total nature buff and in great shape. A couple weeks after the reunion Bert wrote me a letter saying how great it was to meet me, and that I was a grand niece, and he was sure I'd think of him as a great uncle. Bert passed away this weekend. He died from cancer. I'm sure he'd of been around another 15 years if he hadn't had it. I feel cheated that someone I had such a strong connection to, was taken away so quickly, but it cannot compare to the pain of those who've known him a lifetime and lost him. I'd like to do what I think Bert would do at a time like this. Tell a joke, of his, in his Maine accent so you get the full effect:
Henry and Matha have been married fa fottysome yeeahs. One day Henry goes to the docta and says, "Doc, I think Matha's havin some trouble hearin these days, but I don't know watt ta do about it, it's a touchy subject round a(her).
Doc: "Okay Henry, heeahs wattcha do. Get about 50 feet away from Matha, and see if she can hear you, if she can't, move in 10 feet and try again. Keep doin it 'til she heeahs ya, then come let me know how close ya had ta get."
So, that night Henry goes out on the poch off the livin room, about 50 feet away and yells, " Hey Matha, watts fa suppa?" No answer. Henry goes into the livin room where he's about fotty feet away, "Matha, watts fa suppa?" Still no answer. So Henry makes his way inta the dinnin room, where's he's about 30 feet from Matha. This time he cups his hands around his mouth, (Bert does this) "Hey, Matha, Watts fa suppa?" Nothing. Henry's worried, he goes to the doahway of the kitchen , 20 feet away, "Matha, watts fa suppa?" Still nothing. He gets 10 feet from where she's sittin with her back to him and he says, "Matha, I'd like ta know, watts fa suppa?" She replies, "Godammit Henry, fa the fifth time, It's Chicken!"


RED MOJO said...

The photo is my great aunt Jean. Bert's widow. She and I hiked a wooden path through the woods that went on for miles. It was amazing, and she knew all the fauna.

Anonymous said...

HAHHAHHAAA Great Uncle Bert's joke is GREAT!!!

tsduff said...

Love the joke!!

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss of Great Uncle Bert :( I'm glad though that you did get some time to get acquainted with him, and have a good memory of him to keep. Great Aunt Jean sounds like a wonderful relative as well.

RED MOJO said...

Anon, It is a good joke. It never fails to get a good laugh.

tsduff, I'm glad I got to meet him too. He was one of those guys everybody likes, chock full o'personality, charm and wit. He will be missed.

kj said...

(the 'z' slipped in by mistake)

i love maine. it's fitting that's were uncle bert lived. you've done the accent well!

Wieneke said...

Hahahaha, I am lying under my desk now. What a great joke and what a character, your greatuncle Bert. He is sitting in heaven right now and having a wonderful time telling jokes to all the others. :-)

Ces said...

I would love to hear you speak with that accent. I have a friend from Maine but he speaks with a southern accent now.

One of the joys of life is being blessed with wonderful relations. Their legacy brightens our lives.

RED MOJO said...

kj, Glad I could make you laugh!

Wieneke, did you find the white out while you were down there? You're right, he probably is!

Ces, Next time I see you, I'll be happy to do my best Maine speak for you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a warm and lovely post. It does seem terribly unfair that your Uncle Bert was taken from you so soon, but it's quite remarkable that you met at all considering that your stepfather was out of touch with his family for so long.

I'm sure there was a reason for the instant connection you and he made, which will become apparent later.

I visited a friend with a gorgeous house built into the rocks by the water at Cape Elizabeth. It's a wondrous place indeed.

Great story, too! You do the accent so well.

RED MOJO said...

Heartinsanfrancisco, Thank you and thanks for stopping in, and all of your comments. I'm glad I found your blog. It's terrific.
I think you're right, there is a reason.

CS said...

Ha ha. That is a great joke. Nice that you got a chance to know him.

RED MOJO said...

cs, I do feel fortunate that I got to know him, even a little. Thanks for stopping in!