By Jay Kerner
You had to love my late brother, Unkle Pat. (Everybody called him that including our mother. And that’s his spelling, not mine.) Anyway, he got arrested a lot.
He was a drinker and driver. I, in no way condone this, but it’s important to the story to note that he never had a wreck, that I remember. Never hurt anybody. He always got pulled over for a turn signal out or expired plates. But then the mountain of empties on the floor, not to mention the open container between his knees became a problem. After that, his obnoxious nature and smart mouth (especially when lubricated) became a problem. He fell down and broke his own nose in custody a few times.
He also skipped out on bail once and was a fugitive from justice for a few years.
Eventually, he wanted to come home and contacted the court to see just how much trouble he was in. They were pretty cool considering, but still sentenced him to 90 days of house arrest. He was working as a maintenance man at an apartment complex and lived where he worked. The plan involved a bracelet and a breathalyzer on his phone that could go off anytime other than work hours. It shot video of him answering and he had to blow clean within so many seconds or go to jail.
He agreed to the deal before turning himself in.
I didn’t think he could do it. Clean and sober for three months?
I should have known better. Nobody in my life was ever more stubborn and pigheaded than my little brother.
He decided he was going to “kick home confinement’s ass.” (His words)
He went to the library and got several books he’d always meant to read.
He got a couple of cookbooks.
He got exercise videos.
He subscribed to the NBA package on cable.
And he dug in. When they showed up with the bracelet and the phone gizmo, he was set.
He read like crazy. He called me in the middle of the night to ask me what weird words meant. (I was always his dictionary and Thesaurus.)
He wrote long hand-written letters to everybody. Filled with the most outlandish grammar, spelling and punctuation. I still have mine.
He started cooking fancy stuff. I’d call to check on him and he was always basting or sautéing something.
And he was always in a good mood. Surprisingly so. It was a little creepy. He was just as compulsive about this as he was about learning guitar or construction or even drinking, as far as that goes.
My crazy brother. My self-destructive, idiot-genius brother was kicking home confinement’s ass!
But he was also, constantly, counting down his sentence. Anytime you talked to him, he could tell you how many days, hours, (and if you gave him a minute), minutes he had left.
And when his clock finally ticked down to zero, and his device went off to tell him his time was complete, the last image it recorded was my crazy-ass brother popping the top on a can of Hamms.
At that moment, he was probably the healthiest he’d been in at least a decade. Probably longer. But he really only did it to prove he could. That’s just who he was. It was crucial to him that the system knew he’d won. He did the crime and he did the time. But he never let the time do him.
My brother’s been gone 9 years now. His liver finally got him, but that was only fair. He killed his liver first.
But I tell this story today because of this virus situation. Lots of us are in self-imposed lockdown!
It sucks! Everybody had plans! It’s natural to be pissed!
But I’m going to do my best to go Unkle P on the situation.
First, I’m going to love on my people. In person where I can. By phone, by email, hell, even by snail mail if I have to. Family. Friends. The close ones and maybe some of the ones I let get away a little.
Then, I’ve got books. Bunches. I’m going to re-read my favorites. That should last a pandemic or two!
I’ve got photos. Boxes and boxes of photos. I’m going to take some down and write names on the back. I’ve been cussing ancestors for years for not doing that. If you want future generations to give a crap, tell them who they’re looking at.
I’ve got cable and internet. I’m going to watch movies. Even some that came out before last year!
I’m going to discover shows I’ve never heard of. I’ll look for some that were popular enough somewhere else to have multiple seasons.
I’m going to see if a little water will revive my watercolors, left in a drawer all these years.
I’m going to alphabetize my album collection and listen to music that has moved me. From Meet the Beatles to last year’s Neil Young disk.
I’m going to straighten out the attic. The last move was a good one. Let go of a lot of crap. But not nearly all. Whatever we couldn’t find a place for, went upstairs. The boxes of miscellaneous, unsorted. The off-season clothes saved for weather that never came. The new gifts, unopened, purchased early, then forgotten and replaced by the time the event rolled around.
It’s all coming down! If I have my way, there’ll be nothing up there but the Christmas decorations. The rest can go to the garage. There’s a garage sale in our future, mark my words. Some of my crap needs to become your crap. Or somebody’s! Whatever doesn’t go, goes to the dump!
Maybe I’ll learn a foreign language.
Maybe I’ll do the Hokey Pokey and turn myself about!
You don’t know what I might do!
But whatever I do, I’m going to do my best to follow the example of my brother, the late, great, Unkle Pat. Home confinement? I intend to kick its’ ass! And I encourage you to do the same.
And whether it’s a week, a month, or however long it takes, when the all-clear finally comes, I’ll pop the top of whatever is at hand and thumb my nose at coronavirus. Happier, healthier, and raring to go.