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Chapter 002 Awakened by the sensation I was flying

Off we went on our journey of discovery. My dad couldn’t come because of work commitments, and my brother, Jerry, was off driving tanks for the U.S. Army in Germany, so it was just Uncle Billy, Uncle Eskie and me.

My Uncle Billy was a short balding man with an almost constant twinkle in his eyes and wry smile on his lips. His long, fat, omnipresent Cuban cigars were as much a part of him as were his bushy eyebrows. Consequently, I came to associate the smell of cigar smoke, as well as the smell of my dad’s pipe smoke, with the safety and comfort of a loving family.

Billy was recently widowed. Aunt Charlotte, my dad’s youngest sibling and one of my favorite aunts due to her irreverent outlook and the fact she got to go on those spring fishing trips to Northern Maine with the boys, had died after a nasty battle with brain cancer. We were all deeply saddened by her passing and missed her terribly. Uncle Eskie, Aunt Charlotte’s next older sibling, lived with Billy and Charlotte in Brookline, where our family were frequent visitors on Sunday afternoons. He was utterly devastated by the loss of his beloved kid sister. Buying a camp seemed even more appropriate now as a way to move on after her death.

So on that glorious day in the spring of 1961, I was at the wheel of my Uncle Billy’s 1960 Chevy Impala, the ink barely dry on my driver’s license. “Wanna drive?” Uncle Billy had asked me. “Sure!” I replied. It was my first time on a freeway or turnpike and I was impressed that my uncles trusted me enough to let me drive. In fact they were so trusting that both of them soon fell asleep. Now, although my driving skills were excellent, despite being a new driver, my judgment lagged considerably behind my skills. Hence, it seemed to me like an excellent time to see just how fast Uncle Billy’s car would go. Turns out the answer was 91 miles per hour, a speed I held for some time until Uncle Billy awoke, looked around in a somewhat bemused way, checked the speedometer and in a kindly tone suggested, “Why don’t you slow down a bit?” “Oh, yeah, sure,” I responded, slowing down immediately, and feeling relieved not to have been chastised for my rashness. He then made the remark, in his wry, understated way that I’ll remember to my dying day: “I was awakened by the sensation I was flying.”

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