Saturday, October 27, 2007

A day of surprises

After the furor of controversy this week, it was nice to get an unexpected surprise.

Beanie told me Uncle Bob (Mom's younger brother) called her yesterday and was going on and on about the birthday card and letter I sent him last week. I'm sad to say I didn't remember his birthday until Mom mentioned it, but I'm not certain I ever knew when it was. It was October 16th and he is now 75 years old. Uncle Bob told Beanie, "That Pearl can really write." He has copies of a couple of anthologies with my stories in them because I signed and sent him and Aunt Lois copies at Mom's request, but I guess he didn't really know how much I've written -- other than the articles my mother has kept and made sure all the Mays read. (It's a years' long competition of sorts about whose children are the most accomplished and talented.)

At any rate, I was deep in the latest book for review (another thriller) and had the ringer turned off on the phone. It was still on the bed because I used it earlier to make some calls (yes, I'm cocooning). I happened to glance at the phone when the light on the Caller ID lit up. The call was from an Ohio number and something seemed familiar about it so I picked it up. Lo and behold, my uncle's exuberant voice answered my hello. "Do you have time to talk to your old uncle?" he asked.

"Of course I do. I always have time to talk to you," I said.

He started right in about the lovely card I sent, and the letter, and how much he liked them. "You really know how to write." He gushed and went on about the letter, telling me he had to call Mom to get my phone number so he could call and thank me. And then we just talked: books, J.K. Rowling, reviewing, writing, and Lee Iacocca. Uncle Bob prefers nonfiction, especially autobiographies of successful people, just like Mom who has a thing for royalty and castles and a raging case of obsession with the Biography Channel on cable. He asked me how much Rowling was worth and I told him, "One billion American."

"Imagine that. Well, Pearl, when you get rich and famous I hope you'll remember your poor old uncle."

My poor old uncle owns several properties in Ohio and Florida. Poor, my foot. I should be so poor. But he worked hard for the money and bought and fixed up old houses that sold for tens of thousands more than he paid. He's worked hard all his life and he earned every penny the hard way.

He wanted to know if I skim books I have to review and how I get through books I don't like, and how I remember everything the way I do. "It's my job and I'm a professional," I told him. "I couldn't write a review if I didn't read every word, although I've been tempted to stop at the first or second chapter of a book that is sucking the very life out of me and damaging brain cells as I read." He laughed.

When we said goodbye I called my mother to tell her about the call and the first thing she said was that he had called her wanting my phone number and going on and on about my writing and how good I was. I should hire him as my publicist. He's good advertising. When Mom reminded him I have several books coming out next year, he said he was going to buy them all. Too bad I don't get paid royalties for anthologies.

Mom suggested I send him some of my stories. I can do that. I never considered it before because, like all families these days, we have grown apart and gone our separate ways. That wasn't always the case. I used to spend a month every summer in the country with them growing up and holidays and celebrations, and a lot of Sunday dinners, were shared in our home, theirs, or at Grandma and Grandpa's. We were close and, except for twice in my whole life, Uncle Bob has always called me Pearl (Pearl Bailey or Pearly Mae). It was Grandpa's nickname for me. Grandpa never called me anything but Pearl. He gave me the nickname when I was a baby because he said when my teeth came in they were like tiny perfect pearls. Grandma said it was because I was the precious pearl in Grandpa's oyster. I miss seeing Uncle Bob and being close with my cousins.

I won't move from Colorado because this is my home, but I have a reason to go back and visit again -- my uncle -- who was so knocked out by a simple card written to tell him happy birthday and a short one page letter to tell him how much I enjoyed talking with him last week.

It's unfortunate but true that people don't take the time to say thank you any more or to acknowledge cards and gifts. I was brought up in a time when it was unbelievably rude not to acknowledge even a small gift or card. It's a small sign of respect and kindness and it doesn't cost very much, but it certainly leaves a smile on my face and a warm glow in my heart to know that sometimes people do remember and appreciate the thought.

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