I have to write my Aunt Ruth and tell her how much she and Uncle Art have meant to me. My Uncle Arty, or Uncle Party as we called him, went home to heaven earlier this year. I’ve been trying to write Aunt Ruth since then, but couldn’t find the words. My Uncle Art Krsnak, Aunt Ruth and their four sons; Art, Jr., Barry, Danny and Scotty, lived on Broadway Avenue in Sayville. Aunt Ruthie is still there now.
Every Memorial Day they had a big family picnic. Picnic tables were lined up, and competing potato salads ran down the center from one end to the other. Steaming hot sweet corn was delivered every 10 minutes. Fresh clams on the half shell were consumed in record amounts. And the beer flowed like wine.
The barbecue was manned by four men debating the best techniques for burning food. Women chased kids to wipe drippy faces. Three to six men stood guard at the old iron bathtub that held beer and soda at all times. They were rugged men of old, able to plunge their arms to the elbow in freezing ice water to fetch out Ballantine beers to give to us, the children of old, who ran the beer to table for the reward of an Orange Crush. And Tab.
Next to the tub was a big shady maple tree. Uncle Art tapped a big nail into the tree about five feet up. The nail extended out two inches. A ring on a string was tied to a branch and the game was to swing the ring onto the nail, easier said than done. Uncle Walter was having difficulty having trouble drinking and getting the ring on the nail when Uncle Art realized the problem, ran over to the tree, wrapped his big arms around it and said, “Here you go, Walt, I’ll hold the tree steady for you.” It got a good laugh and the rest of the day the men took turns holding the tree for each other.
Uncle Art usually dug fresh pits for horseshoes. My grandfather was always speculating that the pits were too close or too far apart. Uncle Art said, “Okay, Erv, I’ll dig the pit closer to you from my side and further from me on your side.” I was 11 years old, and I challenged the logic of that statement. Whereby Uncle Art said, “Well, it might not make sense to everybody, but it’s my yard and I have my own law of physics.” Whenever saying something illogical, it’s important to say it with conviction and gravitas to make it true, so I believed him.
Uncle Art built a zip line in the back yard. I never enjoyed anything as much as I did that zip line. One year it was broken and I was crestfallen. But I’ve always been able to bounce back quickly from tragedies and last week my therapist said I am very nearly over the loss of the zip line that summer.
Then there was the famous horn incident. Aunt Ruthie told Uncle Art during the picnic that their car horn would spontaneously go on and off. He checked it and announced she was mistaken and it must be something that she’s doing wrong. Later that day, he took he car on an errand. Broadway Avenue is a very long street. We all heard a car horn blaring from far away. It steadily got louder. And so did Aunt Ruth’s laughter. By the time he pulled in everyone had tears of laughter streaming down their faces. Uncle Art got out of the car and said, “God dammit Ruth, why didn’t you tell me something was wrong with the horn? I got all the neighbors looking at me.”
My uncle would deliberately wear mismatched socks. He’d wait for some innocent person to say, “Excuse me sir, did you know you’re wearing two different socks?” To which he responded, “I know, but I don’t know what to do about it. And I got another pair at home just like these…..”
I have to write to my Aunt Ruth and tell her how much she and Uncle Art have meant to me.