I remember Uncle Fred for what he said to me. Here are a few of the many things he said.
Firstly ” fizzy drinks are rot gut and sugar in your hot drinks is bad. Sugar is worse than alcohol!” Well I still normally don’t take sugar in hot drinks and very rarely have a fizzy drink. Words can stick in a teenagers mind.
Then after dinner in the evening he would sit stretched out on the three seater sofa with a dovaman’s head and body partially on the second seat and auntie Louise on the third seat . He would then shove Buster the dog over take out a larger than normal pocket knive and promptly pick his teeth. I must have given him one of my looks of disgust because he would then remind me of all he had done with the knife that day. Included in the list was cutting off a sheep’s tail that he had tied off previously. His words were “germs eat germs this knife is clean.” With both my parents being nurses and reminded to wash our hands regularly this was a laugh.
Then one day we were together on the cooler front verandah where they hung salted meat to dry and he said taste this. The dry meat was fatty and more dense than usual. He then laughed and said: ” You have just eaten hippo”. He knew I never ate unclean meat. I didn’t say anything I remember I just felt sad.
The last time I saw uncle Fred was when I was told he was dying of sclerosis of the liver. He was terribly yellow with sunken eyes. A man consumed by his bed. I asked if he would like me to pray with him and I did. That was our last encounter. I am happy I knew him and that we had, had many other chats often about the existence of God.
The information in this final paragraph brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. My sister told me this past week two pieces of information which would have made me understand uncle Fred a lot better. Firstly, the room we slept in when we visited the farm had previously been uncle Fred’s son’s room. His name was Quintin and he was uncle Fred’s only son from his first marriage. Quintin tragically drowned in his late teens. ( How traumatic for uncle Fred.) Then secondly , while I thought the farm belonged to uncle Fred, it didn’t. It belonged to auntie Louise because uncle Fred had given it to her due to his terrible drink problem. She and grandpa had helped uncle Fred so much that by the time we visited monthly there was no alcohol just a beautiful, thriving farm with an uncle who enjoyed an opposing view and I valued him for it.