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Struggling to Understand the Life of Uncle Walter

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

Special Note From The Writer . . .

Maybe this block isn't in-step with the editors of HubPages. Then again, it might. But in the day that we survive, I am not a gambler and do not want any "thank youse," from Ken Rogers, so I will just issue a sincere thank you for all who are about to read something wild, but with a sensitive, true story. I did mention the cigarette, Pall Mall, in this hub because "just" me mentioning my uncle Walter's unfiltered cigarettes will not hold up to the brand that I meant.

These mentions are NOT my endorsement(s) for Pall Mall or any big cigarette company. In fact . . .I urge everyone to NOT smoke cigarettes and if you do smoke, STOP. Sincerely, KENNETH.

Self-portrait, Piaccaso.

Self-portrait, Piaccaso.

The Very First Time That

I met my uncle Walter, he was sitting on my wife’s front porch and smoking a cigarette that he had bummed from someone and was just sitting, but seldom walking. My wife introduced me to uncle Walter, and I called him ”uncle,” because if he married my wife, it was only fair that her relatives were my relatives. Besides. The moniker, uncle, fit like a JC Penney glove.

There were three things that uncle Walter loved (in this order): playing the guitar; drinking whiskey, and smoking unfiltered Pall Mall. At any given time, the order of these three things could change on a dime. Make that a nickel. I witnessed him doing that at least five times during our visit with him.

Uncle Walter was a thin man. He looked to weight about 99 pounds soaking wet. Seriously. Not because of any disease, thank God, but due to the U.S. Army, who took Walter to combat duty in WWI, and thanks to an enemy bullet, Walter had to have half his stomach removed thanks to the enemy’s bullet shattering inside of him. (This, I know was not for the squeamish, but I tried.)


For The Better Part

of my first visit with Walter, on “that” wonderful visit with Walter and several of my wife’s relatives, I do not want to lie, but Walter was my dead-on favorite—and what was so amazing is that he did not say over 12 words total. Do not ask me why. But he did ask me a few questions. The one being that got my attention was, did I play guitar? Simple. To the point. Just like uncle Walter.

Then, after the afternoon was sneaking by, someone brought him a cup of Maxwell House instant coffee—Uncle Walter would not drink other brands than Maxwell House. Although this is not me endorsing this coffee brand, personally, I drank another brand. But never told uncle Walter. He had his pride.

Uncle Walter tuned his guitar up and asked if I knew the words of “Your Cheating Heart,” and with more pride, he was proud to announce . . .”a Mr. Hank Williams, Sr., wrote and sun this one!” Uncle Walter was dead-on. Every note, every chord, a symphony on six strings. That was my uncle Walter.

I Really Didn't Know

how uncle Walter did it, but he confided that he had “circles,” as he told it, of friends that he had in states such as: Illinois; Michigan and Nevada. I wanted to ask, how, but something told me that “this” area of uncle Walter’s life should stay untouched. He must have agreed, because after telling me about how he would send the U.S. Army his current check to whomever he was visiting, made him so happy and opened up another Hank Williams, Sr., hit: “Lovesick Blues,” and sober or tight, uncle Walter knew how to pick the strings—sometimes with both eyes shut. Back at home I tried this and well, I failed way past miserable.

My wife told me that when she was a little girl and uncle Walter had a little more hair, he would stay with her grandfather, his half-brother just so if he drank too much, he would have a warm bed to sleep on. Uncle Walter was always planning for his next move. That was evident.

As for uncle Walter’s marriage . . .he did not have one. Sure, he told me that when he was a younger man, he had a lot of dates and in lots of places, and he explained it, and he always had this gift of moving out of town, or state just as the bride and preacher were about ready to marry him. But uncle Walter stayed a bachelor. Too much responsibility, uncle Walter stated and with a remorseful look. And just a quickly as he went into his sad mood, he was back as if someone had turned on the electricity in his head along with that beaming smile. Yes, uncle Walter was not one to stay down and out.

Uncle Walter and a few relatives sat and chatted with him and I sensed that he was not one of their popular people—and to myself, I wondered why because uncle Walter was full of life, laughter, and nowhere to call his home. But uncle Walter was no hobo. He relied on his gift of gab.

My wife shared another story about uncle Walter and her story was NOT a story that I would write home to let maw maw read it to the kids, because there was a few “incidents” that happened to uncle Walter that not every God-fearing citizen would appreciate. It was a few years ago and uncle Walter had “been at the bottle” a wee bit too much, and to be honest, he was drunker than a possum that fell into grandpa’s moonshine still.

Picassio in 1908.

Picassio in 1908.

Uncle Walter Proceeded to

leave all of his clothing on the floor and his relatives, I think it was Zion, Ill,, must have been equally-drunk because even with uncle Walter disrobed, they never offered any complaint or term of disliking what he did. Truthfully, uncle Walter didn’t care. Oh, if he had been sober, he would have engineered the visit with his relatives better than a D-12 bulldozer.

Time passed by. And my wife told me that her dad, who was not too good to be a help for anyone, had to drive to Zion in order to pick uncle Walter up from whatever relatives where uncle Walter was visiting. But “this” time, her dad found uncle Walter fully-clothed, sober and sitting on the front porch smoking an unfiltered Pall Mall and sipping Maxwell House instant coffee.

My wife’s dad and uncle Walter said few words as uncle Walter went into the house, picked-up his small suitcase (consisting of two shirts and a pair of Sunday slacks), and was ready to get into my wife’s car and was ready to ride. Even with my wife’s dad getting uncle Walter to take him home with him and his family, the two did not talk that much. Not because her dad was angry, but a little disappointed for how he had found uncle Walter.

And this pattern continued to evolve as the next few years passed and each time, my wife’s dad was always elected to get uncle Walter from Nevada or Michigan—anywhere that life had taken him. But in 2006, uncle Walter’s visiting and traveling stopped. Uncle Walter passed away in his sleep—and was not hooked onto a machine or suffering any pain.

Uncle Walter, to me, was a living legend in my life.
Please do not feel sorry for uncle Walter, for as everyone knows that, Walter did not fade away. He slowly faded—but not his cherished memories.

April 10, 2019__________________________________________________

© 2019 Kenneth Avery