Biography 8: Uncle George

My uncle George breaks my heart. He’s the sweetest man but goes un-respected and unloved. My uncle Steve was Grampa’s favourite, since he’s accomplished and smart.

George is an artist, and fragile of heart.

He is honest and loyal and always has my back.

It makes me so sad that people treat him like crap.

He had measles or mumps at a young age, which gramma says held him back. One of those old world children’s diseases we only know from our vaccinations.

Since he had a stroke he’s been kind of  a sad sack, my mom loves to use that phrase with my aunt. But I love him anyway because I can get down with that.

There’s no one funnier who makes me laugh, at the absurdity of the Winnipeg Jets or his frog in a baseball cap. Inside jokes.

He studied animation but someone “stole his idea,” he painted canes but old people prefer chairs with wheels.

He has a customer service job which is kind of insane, since there’s no one crankier at least not that I can name. It’s the kind of thing that let’s me know God has a sense of humour.

I love my uncle George, I love him the best. Fuck all you haters you all fail the test. He’d like that I think, he’d giggle with his chest, water glass bobbles up then down with a mess.

My uncle George makes me cry, so it’s easier to write this in rhyme. There’s too much pain for his bio to be the same and it’s kinda lame but maybe it will get better.

This story is part of: “10 Bios in 10 Days” by Jane A. F.

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Biography 5: Dad

My dad was born in Santiago on Chilean Independence Day. His parents would tell him the parade was in honour of his birthday, a simple lie which solidified his feelings of high self-worth (and self-importance) at an early age. Winning the local Top Forty-Under-Forty contest, achieving longest standing CEO as a non-owner status, these accolades came easy, almost naturally. Within the family he is put on the highest pedestal which casts a long shadow for me and, as I’d later learn, a couple of others. I think the fact that I’m a woman also has something to do with my lesser status in the family. My dad doesn’t notice this special treatment though, he’s convinced he’s ordinary. I was oblivious to it too until recently. My mom says that at funerals or parties there’s always a crowd hovering in line to speak to my dad.  Strange, since I find him incompetent at most things.

Like Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, my dad is a physicist with questionable social skills. Of course my dad doesn’t find The Big Bang Theory funny, being so similar to the character who is the bud of all the show’s jokes.  My dad’s lack of social empathy, and need for control, put a strain on his and my mom’s relationship, on ours too. His success in business ensured people generally would over look his social ineptitude, a dichotomy which was very hard for me to reconcile when I was younger, especially since I am an only child and experienced this alone.  It wasn’t until I publicly put some distance between us that my mom and some uncles came forward with their support.  They didn’t want to say anything negative before but figured since I had figured it out on my own it was safe to speak.

After a year of basically no communication with my dad I can approach our relationship with less attachment, and as a consequence more clarity. I can take him for who he is and separate my identity from his, especially with those who still insist on introducing me by my connection to him; “ this is Jane, Jane is Dan’s daughter, Dan’s interests include…” Hahaha. Sometimes my dad will even laugh with me.

This story is part of: “10 Bios in 10 Days” by Jane A. F.

Biography 1: Gaby

My grandma Gaby is as fucked up as they come. We summarize the gist of it by saying that she’s made suicide attempts roughly every two years since she was fourteen. When I stop to think about it, it actually gives me pause. Like a real physical pause where I put my chin on my fist and take a deep breath. It’s hard to differentiate my grandmother’s story from those of characters in holocaust books, memoirs my dad made me read as a kid.

My grandma Gaby was born in Berlin in the nineteen thirties, a jew obviously. At three years of age the family got spooked and set sail for America, leaving their riches and their fashion factory behind. My great-grandmother had chosen America as the destination because she had a cousin there, whilst other relatives set their sights on Australia. When the family got to America though they were stopped at the gates. The States wasn’t accepting Jewish refugees yet and my grandma and her parents were sent to a detention facility on the island of Cuba. She spent her fourth birthday there. Eleven months in, and one before they were to be sent back to Germany, my family received a visa of welcome to Chile. This was before the internet and modern globalization so you can imagine the exoticness of their anticipation.

The family arrived in Chile with the shirts on the their backs and not a word of Spanish, ready to rebuild a fashion empire, which they did. My great-grandfather was an exceptional business man. But with great success came attention, the wrong kind of attention. My great-grandfather cheated on my great-grandmother with Gaby’s childhood friend. They later got married but not until after Gaby’s second marriage to her soon-to-be step-mother’s brother. Yes, my great-grandfather married his daughter’s sister-in-law, they had four kids. My dad played with them, his tios they were called despite being chronologically younger.

Later my great-grandfather got married for the third time. My grandmother’s youngest sister is my age. I think most of her issues stem from her relationship with her father, not that her other relationships were easy.

Gaby’s relationship with my grandfather was also fraught with betrayal. A few months after my aunt Janet was born, my grandparents went to visit their friends who had also given birth to a baby girl, Francisca. When they arrived, an awkwardness fell over the room as baby Francisca looked unequivocally like my grandfather. Francisca’s parents separated and my grandfather left Gaby with the baby and my 8 year old dad. That’s how I have two aunts born three months apart.

After sagas of broken hearts it’s amazing  Gaby is still standing. With help from a fistful of pills and retirement housing she keeps going. She won’t quit I gotta give her that. She isn’t weak. Staying alive is already an exceptional feat.

This story is part of: “10 Bios in 10 Days” by Jane A. F.