Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bound by the accordion

My younger nephew has always idolized his cousin, my older nephew. As their observant aunt, this amuses me, as they could not be more different.

My older nephew is in the Navy, where he is enjoying success after being something of a fuck up. Bright but scattered, with more than a touch of ADD, he didn't do well in high school and failed at one attempt at college. He was living in his mom's house, subsisting at a minimum wage job as a clerk at a tuxedo shop, when he enlisted. Now he has a career, and since success can beget success, he has a solid relationship with a woman who appears to be very stable and nice, and a network of supportive friends (mostly military).

He's also noisy, suffers from poor impulse control, and loves making offensive jokes because he believes it's his duty in life to "stir the pot." He thinks Donald Trump is great.*

My younger nephew is a smart but achingly sensitive high school junior. He marches to his own drummer -- listening to the Beatles almost exclusively and devouring political non-fiction. Three books I've given him are Making of a President 1968,  Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, and Bernie Sanders' Our Revolution. I know the first two well enough to quiz him, so yes, he's read them. (While his friends read illustrated novels about The Avengers and The Justice League.)

Last summer, we happened upon a Black Lives Matter march in Grant Park and he truly wanted to join them.

The advent of Trump and the prevalence of social media has put a strain on their relationship. Not so the older one has noticed, though. He's not big on nuance. But the younger one has stopped following his cousin because he's been so turned off by the in-your-face racist/sexist/homophobic and anti-Bernie memes. "I want to still love him," the younger said. It broke my heart.

Last weekend, the two cousins saw one another for a couple hours. I saw the older one the next day (post below). He said he couldn't believe how "tall and quiet that kid is!"

That struck me as slightly ominous. My younger nephew is never quiet with me. Was he overwhelmed by his older cousin's boisterousness? Was he feeling awkward ... or disappointed? I'm not going to see the younger one for a month or so. But I assumed there might be a breach and I did what I could to heal it.

Both cousins enjoy Springfield, Illinois, and walking where Abe walked. So I told the older about my trip down there with the younger.

After paying our respects to Mr. Lincoln, we saw this ostentatious grave, which is within clear view of Lincoln's Tomb.

Next to Mr. Lincoln himself, Roy Bertelli (aka "Mr. Accordion") has the biggest resting place in the cemetery. And it's big, and it's stupid. One man saved the Union, one man loved the accordion. I mean, it's funny.

We all agree on that.

But my younger nephew didn't leave it at that. He researched Roy Bertelli. Then, when he was assigned a paper about "a courageous Illinoisan," he wrote about Bertelli's legal battle to obtain and maintain this monument to himself and his accordion. The paper ended, of course, when Roy died ... and had himself buried somewhere else. Yes, the goofy mess you see above is an empty crypt.

"Really," I told the older cousin, "he's like THE expert on Mr. Accordion. You should ask him about it."

"I will!" the older said between guffaws. "That's a great story. And he did a paper on it? That's awesome shit."

My work here is done.

*Or he did before the election. I imagine many Trump supporters now have buyer's remorse.

1 comment:

  1. I hope the nephews can figure out how to accept each other without friction, or losing idol status.