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Cuzn Hank

February 29, 2012

Do you have a relative in your family that causes you to cringe at the mere mention of their name?  Me neither.

At least not until a few summers ago….

It started innocently enough.  Denyce and her siblings planned an 80th birthday party for their mom, Billie, over the long 4th of July weekend.  They invited friends and family from all over – Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Alaska and parts unknown.  No big deal.

When the birthday weekend came, there were more than 50 people in our house on Friday evening.  It was raucous and loud, with the clatter of laughter as familiar stories were remembered and retold.

Sometime during the clamor, my son Kyle eased close and said, “Just want to give you a heads up….I overheard mom asking Cousin Hank where they were staying tonight.  He responded, ‘We don’t know yet.’  Then I heard Grandma Billie invite them to stay with us.”

What???  No.  Cousin Hank??  Which one is he?

That became obvious soon enough….  As I walked through the kitchen a few moments later, a 6’3” lanky fellow, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, whose odor announced his presence before his shadow did, sidled up to me and muttered under his breath, “Your wife and Billie mentioned that me ‘n the missus and the young ‘uns might be able to stay here tonight.  We can pitch our tent in your back yard.  Wuld that be OK with you?”

I had the distinct impression I’d seen this before.  Christmas Vacation was funny….but suddenly, this character, straight out of the movie but sans RV – was in my kitchen.

How am I supposed to answer the question?  Understand that Cuzn Hank and his family had just driven from Houston to Illinois to Tulsa (apparently without access to a shower) and that the birthday celebration was scheduled for three more days.

Before I could develop a coherent response, Hank drawled, “We brung our tents and can pitch ‘em in the backyard, iffin’ that’s OK with you.  Where’s the sun come up – so as it don’t hit us in the eyes the first thang of a morning?  And what about your dog?  We don’t want to be a bother.”

Ignoring the concept of driving 500 miles without knowing where you’ll spend the night…..who in their right mind sleeps outside in Oklahoma in July, where it never gets below 80 degrees?  My mind agape, I heard “Yeah, that’s OK”,  come out of my mouth.   “We wouldn’t want to be puttin’ you out now”, Cuzn offered.

Before I could blink, Cuzn Hank, his missus, and his two young ‘uns were not only staying at our house, they were staying IN our house.  “It all happened so fast…..”

And, they stayed for two more days as well.  The only impetus for their departure was that Kara came home from six weeks at summer camp and had to spend the night at a friend’s house because there was no room at our inn.

Fortunately for everyone involved, they did manage to find their way to the shower by Sunday……but Cuzn Hank is forever burned into my memory.

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