My father and his four brothers were big, powerful men, with barrel chests and meaty hands—doing hard, physical labor every day of their lives. They were generally a cheerful lot and there would be lots of slapping-back jokes, raucous laughter, and one-up-man-ship at a big family reunion, usually each 4th of July.
Uncle Ted was my favorite. He too had a powerful upper body from hoisting himself up to run the big land leveling tractors we called turnopoles, but his legs were wasted from polio, and he always sat quietly, a little apart, his two wooden crutches crossed on the floor beside him. He listened to the male chest beating with an enigmatic smile that amused me. We got along fine.
At mealtime, I hurried to the table to claim the chair beside him. Uncle Ted had a habit of separating each portion of food on his plate so a helping of fried chicken would not touch the barbecued beans, and neither would infringe on the space occupied by his green beans, nor that of the corn on the cob. I organized the smaller portions accordingly on my plate and we ate in a kind of rhythm. When he ate a spoonful of peas, I ate a spoonful of peas, and so on.
Excerpt from my memoir, to be released Fall of 2015.