Uncle Charlie and Grandma Miller are not speaking. Grandma told me she got into a heated argument with her little brother recently.
“You should have seen us outside the house here. I swear to God, it was all I could do to not haul off and slap him. I love Charlie, but he ain’t right. All of Petersburg must have heard my big mouth yelling at him.” She is so upset with him that she refuses to talk to her younger brother ever again, unless he “gets on his knees and begs”.
Uncle Charlie, the man whom I was named after, gave my grandma a wooden, antique bench a few years ago. The bench belonged to their parents. Because Uncle Charlie inherited the Price homestead when both Paul and Rachel died, he was handed down not only the large chunk of property with a large brick house in the town of Huntingdon, PA, but received mostly everything else that once belonged to their parents. It was what the will said, according to Grandma. Charlie got every god damned thing!
I remember my great grandparents vividly; two sets of them, the Prices and the Millers. The Prices seemed wealthy in comparison to the other side of the family. Grandma Price wore white gloves.
My mother was very fond of her Price grandparents and she showed me and my brothers off to them all the time. Grandpa Price smoked a pipe. The house smelled of smoldering wild cherry leaves. Grandma Price was always cooking something. Her grandfather clock was what I admired most with sticky fingers. .
She had tiny knickknacks all over the house. And the stairway which lead to the second floor was spiral. Just learning to walk, I’d attempt to climb the carpeted stairway, making my way to the spare bedroom where Grandma Price kept china dolls on a big, soft bed.
Going to visit our great grandparents was magical. Our great grandparents were genuinely happy to see us and there was always so much to explore inside their mansion. Outside the front porch there was a grapevine and back then, a milkman brought them milk and placed it in a metal box on the back porch. I’d run barefoot down the white sidewalk to see if more milk came yet. Grandpa Price would say, “Did more milk come yet?” and blow a smoke ring so perfect that I could place my hand through it like a silk bracelet.
Uncle Charlie lived with them back then. He had already been married, divorced and was back living at home again. The Price home was so warm. It was odd that any of their children, including my grandmother, would want to marry and move away.
“Is this the one you named afer me?” Uncle Charlie asked, tapping me on my head.
Mom smiled and told him I was the one. When I was only five, mom explained that Uncle Charlie was her favorite uncle and that’s why she named me after him.
It feels horrible knowing that Uncle Charlie is giving me such a bad name with my mother and grandmother over a silly wooden bench. I’m 40 now. I really don’t need this. Is this what I have to look forward to in my old age?
Grandma Miller didn’t think Charlie would care that she gave that bench to my mom. Why should he? He got everything else. The bench was really the only thing that my grandmother had inherited, and that was only because Charlie gave it to her. Grandma didn’t want it. She gave it to my mom.
“You take it, Flo. It’s yours. I remember you sitting on that bench in Mom’s house. You always loved Mom and that bench. Take it with you to your house.”
My mother was grateful for the family heirloom. She spoke of it recently to me on the phone–
“I moved out my fish tank, Charlie. Can you believe it? I’ve had that fish tank since when you and Bill were babies. I needed to make room for a bench that belonged to Grandma Price. It’s so beautiful. I can’t wait ‘til you come home and see it.”
When Grandma Miller told me that she had gotten into a fight with her little brother over a stupid, old bench, the one she had in turn, given away to my mother, I was saddened. Uncle Charlie is acting childish. He told my grandmother that she never should have given that bench away to my mom, Flo.
“My daughter, Billy Jo wanted that bench, Liz. Why’d ya give it to Flo, for?”
“You gave that bench to me, Charlie. I’m not giving it back to you. Get out of my house,” grandma screamed at her brother recently. They still are not on speaking terms.
Mom must feel sick in her stomach. Why would Uncle Charlie not want my mother, the woman who named me after him, not to have a silly old bench that belonged to Grandma Price?
“What are you going to do Mom?” I asked. “Maybe you should give it back.”
“I don’t know, Charlie…,” she said, while stopping herself, realizing that I’m his namesake.
“I’m going to call him and tell him I’m changing my name,” I threatened.
“That would get him. I dare you,” Mom suggested.
I really don’t know the man anyway.