Aunt Miriam and Uncle Johnny

Writing about worrying, I made reference to my Aunt Miriam. That got me thinking more about her and Uncle Johnny, who Terry and I both miss. I thought it was time to pull out this blog entry which I originally published on 6 July 2009. I hope you will indulge me.

Terry was wearing her San Francisco Giants sweat pants the other evening, and it made me think of Aunt Miriam and Uncle Johnny.

Guess you need some context for that.

Uncle Johnny and my maternal grandmother were brother and sister. Uncle Johnny married Miriam. There was one other sister, Marjorie, who married Willard. That of course made Johnny and Miriam my great uncle and aunt. This was the source of many jokes about “Great” Aunt Miriam, mostly from my dad.

Johnny and Miriam were always the black sheep of the family. While everyone else lived in Southern California, they lived in Northern California. While everyone else had kids, they had none. And then there was the fact that while Johnny was a quiet, mild-mannered sort of guy, Miriam was one of those people who never bothered to turn the filters on before speaking.

I always liked them, and I always liked Aunt Miriam in spite of her quirky ways. One time we were visiting them when I was four or five. I asked if I could watch Jack LaLanne on TV, and her response was “Only if you do the exercises.” I kept fretting as to whether we would make it to San Francisco to ride the cable cars as promised. She gave me her Worry Bird, which I have to this day. It originally  came with a card, lost long ago, which said, “Don’t be sad, and don’t be blue, ’cause I’m the bird who’ll worry for you.”

But mostly, Aunt Miriam always treated me as an adult, even when the other aunts and uncles and cousins were still treating me like a kid.

That affection continued into adulthood. When my first wife Ruth and I moved to Northern California, Aunt Miriam and Uncle Johnny were very hospitable. We spent more than one Thanksgiving at their small farm west of Petaluma, to which they had moved some years back. When Ruth died in 1989, I spent a day with them. Uncle Willard was there (we had lost Marjorie many years before). Miriam was fixing lunch and Uncle Johnny, Uncle Willard and I were watching a baseball game in TV. Miriam shouted, “Lunch is ready!” to which Willard responded, “Oh, no, we’ve got another three innings to go.” You don’t do that with Miriam. But Uncle Willard always loved yanking her chain.

When Terry and I got married in 1994, we were in Northern California and our wedding was in Southern California. Miriam and Johnny had by this time moved to Southern California with the rest of the family. Miriam was right there helping my sister-in-law make sure all went smoothly. It did. Or at least any glitches were kept from us until afterward.

Uncle Johnny and I were both baseball fans: Johnny the Giants and me the Dodgers. I ultimately switched loyalty and became a Giants fan after having been in Northern California for several years, and after the O’Malley family had sold the team. One fall when the Giants where tight in the pennant race, Johnny called me just to talk about how well they were doing. That was a nice surprise.

One time they were making a trip up here and we arranged to see a San Francisco Giants game with them. We took CalTrain to the stadium, and Uncle Johnny pointed out many of his haunts from this Northern California days as a United Airlines mechanic. Our seats were not nearly as good as I had anticipated, pretty much nosebleed seats on the left field side. But they didn’t complain, and said they liked the seats.

It was a chilly day and Terry was wearing shorts. I took off to the souvenir shop and found her a pair of Giants sweat pants. It took me about three innings round trip. That’s where the sweat pants and the memory came from.

Uncle Johnny died in 2005 and Miriam in 2007. I miss them and think of them often.

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