It’s the middle of the day and I just woke from a nap. My bloodhound has her head on my chest. She is snoring. There are noxious fumes coming from her backend. I’m worried she’s about to make a pile on my bed.
My nap was not a good one. Sadly, this is because I wouldn’t know how to take a decent nap if I tried. I come from Baptist people who believe napping to be the Eighth Deadly Sin.
The only person I knew who took naps was my uncle. He was a believer in midday rest and he used to claim that this was the secret to a happy life.
“The secret to a good life,” he once told me. “Is after lunch, strip your clothes off, fold’em up nice and neat, and take a nap.”
My uncle took naps in his ‘52 Dodge RV with the windows open. Nobody ever bothered him when he napped because we didn’t want to know what Baptists looked like without clothes.
He was an odd bird. He had a large handlebar mustache and he spoke with a funny cadence. I can close my eyes and hear his unique voice in my head, telling a story. His stories were good. His work ethic was not.
One summer, my uncle attempted to fix our air conditioner. It took eighteen days, fourteen thousand cigarettes, and a lot of naps. Finally my mother knocked on my uncle’s RV and said, “Screw it! I’m buying a new air conditioner.”
He was in the middle of a nap at the time.
My uncle was his own man. He rolled his own cigarettes, recycled his coffee grounds, went fishing whenever he wanted, and didn’t mind letting others cook his supper.
He minded less if someone offered to buy lunch. My uncle’s favorite pastime was inviting people to lunch at a cafe. When the bill would come, he’d pat his pockets and say, “Wouldn’t you know I forgot my wallet?”
After my father died, my uncle visited us a lot. I don’t know why he did, but I was grateful. When he visited, he brought gifts, laughs, stories, and sacks of dirty laundry for my mother.
Mama spoiled him. She’d cook for him, wash his clothes. And in exchange, he would tell non-Baptist jokes on the porch to a wide-eyed little boy who had forgotten how to laugh.
I’d watch the ember of his cigarette in the dark, bobbing back and forth. He’d always pause his stories in places where I was supposed to laugh.
If I didn’t laugh, he’d slap my shoulder and say, “That’s supposed to be funny, you dummy.”
There was the story about the man who got hit by a truck on a country road. The man was pinned between the tree and the truck. A police officer draped a blanket over the man and said, “Sir, are you comfortable?” The dying man replied, “Oh, I make a nice living.”
Then my uncle would swat me and say, “That’s a top-shelf joke, dummy! Laugh!”
Anyway, I don’t know what made me think of all this. I meant to write something else today. Something about my dog, maybe. But sometimes little memories land on you like mosquitoes and you have to do something about them.
When my uncle died, I missed his funeral, and I’m sorry about that. I understand it was a small service.
I wish I would’ve attended. I would’ve told a story about a man who could take half a month repairing an air conditioner. About a man who rolled his own cigarettes, got free lunches, and drove an RV painted with powder-blue house paint.
I guess what I’m trying to say is:
It doesn’t take much to make a sad person feel loved. It doesn’t take much to make a child laugh. Would that I could be such a man.
Maybe one day I will be. And maybe one day I’ll finally learn to take a decent nap.
I think my dog is about to have an accident.