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Monday, 5 March 2012

Alcoholic Angel II.

Part two.

Moments later, while we were still sitting in that bleak kitchen, around the battered table, there was the sound of a powerful truck engine. Then the flash of bright headlights on the kitchen window as a pickup truck pulled into the back yard and the red glow of brake lights as it came to a stop. The engine was switched off, a bang as the truck’s door was slammed shut. Without a knock the back door opened and there stood one of my mother’s younger brothers, Basil.

Uncle Basil was in the building and construction business, he was an alcoholic and the black sheep of the family. In spite of that, he had done very well for himself. Apart from the building and construction business, he also owned a farm outside the town of Tzaneen, in what was then northern Transvaal. All my mother’s family called my father Punter. (That was their nickname for him. What it means I don’t know, but I never heard any of them ever call him by his given name, Andries). Uncle Basil had a very bad stammer  very, very, bad. He stood there in the door trying to speak, his face contorted and twitching with the effort, “P P P P, Punter, w w w w, we’ve ccc come t t t to sp sp sp spend ChChCh Christmas w w w with y y y you”. Then he walked in shook hands with my father and kissed my mother.

My parents stood there stunned.  Guests for Christmas! What now? There was absolutely nothing in the house, not a teaspoon of sugar, no tea or coffee, no milk, nothing. Out in the yard the truck disgorged the rest of its passengers, my uncle’s wife and several cousins. They were on their way to the Natal south coast on a camping holiday. The night before, they had decided on the spur of the moment, to stop over with us for Christmas. It was actually way out of their way and far off the direct route to their destination. Communication was not as easy as it is today.  We had no phone so there was no way that they could let us know that they were coming.

Without another word my uncle walked out and started to unload the truck, while my parents greeted my aunt and cousins, putting on a brave face, pretending they were so happy to have guests. Meanwhile my uncle was carrying in piles of stuff, not just any old stuff. Bags of vegetables, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Fruit, mangoes, bananas, guavas, and grenadillas (passion fruit), all from his farm. Next came a half a sheep, a turkey and several chickens, all slaughtered the day before, and dozens of eggs. The goodies just kept coming, home baked bread, a Christmas cake, cookies, sweets. Bags of sugar and rice, flour, dried fruit and nuts, it seemed like a never ending stream, a virtual cornucopia, then at last their luggage. In the mean time my father, myself and my brother had got over our shock helped to unload the truck.

When everything was off the truck, my uncle sat down at the table, asked for a glass, opened a bottle of brandy poured a stiff shot, and said to my mother, ... face again contorted and twitching with the effort of trying to speak....“Nnnn now DD Daphne, I i i i w w w want y y you t t t to c c c cook Ch Ch Ch Christmas l l l lunch, j j j just l l l like m m m mom u u u used t t t to c c c cook". My late grandmother was of German decent and knew how to cook a Christmas lunch, and my mother had inherited that talent.

The really strange part is that they decided to visit us at all. In seventeen years we had visited them once in Tzaneen, on our way to Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe). How they knew where to find us is also a mystery as I don't think there was much communication in any form between our families.

God’s angels don’t often appear in all their power and glory most times they appear as ordinary human beings, even as an alcoholic uncle.

Uncle Basil has long gone to his rest. After the Christmas visit we sort of lost touch. Things started to go bad for him as drink took over more and more of his life. I pray that God remembers that he was the angel who brought hope and joy to a family who had run out of both.

I often wondered how much his severe speech defect contributed to his alcoholism.


Kay L. Davies said...

Oh, Phillip, it is so true, angels come in many guises. This has been a wonderful story, the poverty and then the deluge of unexpected gifts.
I know of many "God moments" involving alcoholics, and of many miracles. Although "God sees the little sparrow fall" is very poetic and pretty, I think God chooses alcoholics to show His healing power far more often than most people realize.

Joyful said...

A touching and wonderful story about angels on earth. I do believe that stuttering played a huge role in your uncle's alcoholism. I once knew a man who could speak perfectly when he was drunk but when he was sober he had a very difficult time getting his words out properly. So sad.

Mike said...

A thoughtful truth you've told here, Phillip. Angels come in many sizes, in many ways, and it often takes years before you realize that one had touched you.

Thanks for your story.

Gorges Smythe said...

It's a touch hard to see the keys to type this with my eyes "watering" the way they are, Phillip. God bless you for sharing that.

Gorges Smythe said...
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Crystal Mary said...

This is a wonderful story. Your Uncle was an angel. God reads the heart of man and your Uncles heart was good. What a blessing there was no communication in those days otherwise your parents probably would have made excuses for him not to come..they would have thought about not having any food to offer and would have missed that wonderful joyful Christmas. Alcoholism is a disease, a sickness like any other.It comes under the Mental health act as such. It means the sufferer cannot go a day without a drink, they are addicted. Drunkenness on the other hand can be nasty, violent and disgusting.

Susie Swanson said...

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. It really touched my heart..I am your new follower..Susie