This is the story about Uncle Chris and Grandma L and the birthday card. I can't tell it though, without thinking about my father and hid constant comments about both of them. When he spoke of his relatives, he always spoke with contempt and warning. I won't talk about that here. But it comforts me to know that you know that the whole time I'm writing this, I'm hearing his disapproving voice in the back of my mind.
Uncle Chris was a difficult person. I never met him, and I remember no stories of bad behavior. But every relative he had had all but stopped speaking to him. that was helped by the fact that he lived in another state.
He did, however, send Grandma birthday cards, and Christmas cards, I suppose. One year he sent Grandma a joke birthday card. Now you have to know that Grandma was touchy about her age. She never spoke of it. She hated any sign of or reference to growing old. And the punch line of the birthday card was a crack about how old she was getting.
Oh, she was livid. She couldn't stand or sit still when she was talking about it. She'd bustle about, fluffing out like a threatened hen and greaching for things to tidy or crumbs to smooth off the table onto the floor while she complained. Of course, since she enjoyed drama, she enjoyed being livid and offended and her performance of complaining bitterly about his transgression became polished over the weeks and months that she presented the role.
She was going to get him back. He wasn't sensitive about his age. Of course a man wouldn't be. But they made lots of cards and she had time to read them all and find the exact one to get his goat. She was going to show him.
Then he died before his next birthday.
She was offended. She went on and on as if that had been his plan all along. It just wasn't fair that he did that to her - robbed her of her chance to get even.
I'm pretty sure it never occurred to her that it might sound strange to anyone else. Her brother died and not only is she not sad, she's complaining about how it's inconveniencing her.