Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Top Secret Half-Uncle Likes the Smell of Burning Villages


[The astounding accuracy of my fortune cookies really freaks me out sometimes.]

(Yeah, I totally suck. This is one of many posts I wrote months ago but never posted because, as I mentioned, I suck.)

If there were a terrorist alert-type system for likelihood of accidental incest, my family would now be hovering somewhere around orange, or “high risk”. I say this because my family tree is pretty prone to sprouting branches when I’m not looking. Basically – as recently pointed out by my good friend Kirin – whenever things start getting quiet around my household, some long-lost and semi-insane relative pops out of the woodwork.

I’m becoming increasingly concerned that I might be related to a very large number of people running around Middle America. It appears that every male member of my family has at least four mysterious ex-wives that I never heard of. And they’ve all had children. And then mysteriously died in terrible ways. True story.


[My apologies for the insanely ugly family tree diagram. I have become much too lazy to draw properly. But I think it gets the point across.]

And now, because of the internet, none of these secrets are safe.

On a Friday night a few months ago, my unsuspecting brother made the mistake of Googling our great-grandfather, once advisor to the Bank of China and economic guru under the Roosevelt administration. Instead of finding a few tidbits about great grandpappy’s friendship with Chiang Kai-Shek, Topher discovered the social network profile of a man who claimed to be our great grandfather’s eldest grandson.

After doing the math, Topher realized this simply did not fit into his current understanding of our family tree. He began to furiously text our mother.

At this exact moment, I was sitting next to our mother, trying to tolerant a particularly cheesy episode of a BBC mystery miniseries. I had been hurling insults at the television screen for some time – but I quickly realized that my mother wasn’t listening. I had turned to her to make sure that my witty comments were being properly appreciated when I noticed she was in a deep text message conversation with someone on her iPhone.

That was unusual.

What are you doing? I asked.

Oh nothing, she said. Topher just found my brother online.

See, my mother had a plan. She thought that if she acted like nothing was amiss I would turn around and continue yelling at the stuffy British detectives on television. Unfortunately for her, I can smell a family catastrophe from a mile away.

He found Uncle Porn ‘Stache online?

[I recently nicknamed my batshit crazy, estranged uncle ‘Uncle Porn ‘Stache’ when I realized he had the mustache of a 1970s porn star. My mother was instantly overcome with grief because it had never occurred to her that I would even know what a porn star looked like.]

Oh. Umm, no. My brother Trucker*, my mother replied.

She said this so casually, I almost thought that I had, through out the entire course of my life, simply misunderstood the number of brothers my mom had. But wait. That doesn’t make sense.


My brother. Trucker. From your grandfather’s first marriage.

My grandfather’s WHAT?!

This is how it always happens. Somebody says, Oh yeah Brittany, that dude in that photo is your brother! And I’m like, Huh?! And they’re like, Yeah, from your Dad’s second – or maybe third – marriage! And I’m like, HIS WHAT?!

Except this time it was my grandfather. And now I have an uncle.

Oh, my mom adds, and McWittle.


My other brother.


Well, put simply, I have two half uncles that in my 23 years on this planet I have never heard of. My mom’s excuse? She forgot. But now, Pandora’s box has been opened. I need to know more.

So here is an open letter to my Uncle Trucker, which I am considering sending to him, via a social network (perhaps with some minor alterations).

Dear Uncle Trucker,

Hi. I was checking out your profile on some social networking site that I’ve never heard of, and it’s pretty obvious we’re related because you seem completely nuts. Your “About Me” section was a bitter rant about how our mutual relation left the entire family fortune to a liberal arts college (the one I attended, in fact). Yeah, I complain about that a lot too. See, we already have something in common!

Your self portraits remind me of a cross between the happy, bumbling British neighbor that turns out to be a murderer in every BBC miniseries and Michael Moore of Bowling for Columbine fame. With perhaps some Santa Claus thrown in. I don’t know what that really says about you. Actually you kind of look like Mr. Finney from Boy Meets World.

Your profile says you’re a member of Islam and you use your blog to write sci fi fantasy about moon colony revolts and other futuristic space problems (in 30+ installments, no less!). I’m impressed. That’s not normal behavior for a 60 year old.

Through some quick Facebook stalking, I’ve discovered you enjoy a Farmville-like game called Kingdom of Camelot, you don’t trust the government, and you were recently assaulted in a public library.

But I have to say, my favorite thing about you are your indescribable Facebook status updates. A selection of my favorites:

“Oh the humanity! The lamentations of the women. The smell of burning villages just makes the day!”**

“I just lost most of my army attacking a fortified barbarian camp. Great.”

I am loyal to my friends but I make a dangerous enemy.”

Clearly, dear uncle, we are going to get along famously.


Your niece,



*The names in this post have been changed to protect my unsuspecting blood relations.

**These are all real quotes. For reals. My uncle is potentially awesome.