Way Back Music Monday

coloring & listening to Kenny Rogers wearing the earphones my uncle gave me

I have an uncle who I was really close to as a child. He was still in college when I was learning to read. In an act of what I’m sure was pure meanness by his big brother, my dad would take me over to see him on Saturday mornings. I would sit at the foot of his bed and read my book of Knock Knock jokes to him. I can think of NOTHING more torturous to a hung over frat boy than a precocious 5-year-old telling Knock Knock jokes at 7:30 in the morning. As I aged, he forgave the joke telling, and we talked on the phone at least once a week while I was in college about everything from boys to bourbon to careers to family.

We don’t speak now. I doubt I will ever speak to him again. Unless there is a drastic, universal change, he will not know Monkey Boy. It turns out I didn’t really know him. He hurt a lot of people, mostly his children. I make no claim my disappointment or pain is even close to theirs. But since I have the option of whom I let in my life, I chose for him not to be. (I realize this reads as harsh and unforgiving on my part. I don’t intend to justify it; I simply ask you to trust the decision to totally cut him out of my life was thoughtful, measured, and after more than a decade of doing everything I knew to help him help himself.)

Sometimes I have those moments when a song takes me back to a moment in my life. Today, for reasons that pass all understanding, I heard a few bars of The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton. It took me back to a night in college. Baby Daddy and I were visiting my uncle over Christmas vacation. We were up late telling stories, drinking bourbon and listening to music. He was pulling out his old LPs. After we’d listened to Willie Nelson and David Allen Coe (what do you expect, we’re rednecks), he played Johnny Horton. We marched and danced and laughed. We got in trouble for being too loud. It was a great night.

I didn’t know then about the lies that covered the deceit which masked the betrayals. I had no idea just months later his house of cards would crumble. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I will always be sad that things turned out the way they did. I wish it had been different. I would have liked to have had more nights like that one with my uncle. But today, I have healed enough, I can play the song and smile. So that’s something.



Filed under The view from here

3 responses to “Way Back Music Monday

  1. Kelli

    I’ve often struggled with the question of how to treat family when family treats you wrong. I too have opted to cut close family out of my life when left with no option. I feel that just because someone is family they don’t have the right to hurt you over and over.

    You do what you have to do. Glad you’re far enough away that you can still see the good memories. I’m not there yet.

  2. Stewart McLendon

    KJ, your post hit several spots with me… the picture is priceless… My dad had similar wooden shelves with vinyl and i distinctly remember listening to Kenny Rogers, Oak Ridge Boys, and Alabama in the late 70’s/ early 80s with those big headphones… I think those are memories that molded me.

    plus i’ve had other thoughts recently about a friend that i made a conscious decision to drop. it was a decision i wish i’d handled better. but i think your article made me realize about the ripples that move outward through time after we make those important decisions.
    ps. keep up the good writing.

  3. I have an Aunt whom I will never speak to again barring some massive spiritual awakening on her part.

    Being family does not give someone the right to use you as a doormat… or anything else.

    I remember that song as well. I also associate Kenny Rogers with my childhood. Have you seen Kenny Rogers lately? Oh that is some bad plastic surgery.