Hi, it's Chris Nieratko again. You should meet Lonnie, my wife’s retarded uncle (literally). He is the absolute best dude on the planet. He looks like Andre the Giant, and although I've never met Andre I’d wager Lonnie’s brut strength rivals that of the Giant. The difference is that Lonnie is unaware of his superhuman might so when he tries to be funny and push you lightly, you fly across the room.
Lonnie is an absolute joker. He often tries to play like he doesn’t know what’s going on to avoid having to do any work or even have to move from in front of the TV (all he watches is TV Land around the clock); but you can be sure he knows what’s happening. And it may seem like my wife and in-laws are torturous to Lonnie. I know when I first met them I was like, "Man, they won’t leave this poor guy alone." But then I realized that you basically need a crowbar to pry a reaction out of Lonnie. Or the constant loving prodding that my family gives him. So I quickly joined in. My favorite thing to do is jump on Lonnie’s 60-year-old back and have him carry me around. He’s such an ox that he never even notices that I’m there. Sometimes he walks around with me dangling for a half hour without caring. I have to tickle his neck to get him to acknowledge I’m there.
My wife has a fantastic exit routine with Lonnie. When it’s time to leave her parents' house she asks Lonnie if he shit his pants. This really pisses him off. But it is a valid question since he often shits his pants. He calmly tells her to go home after the first time she asks. Then she asks again, “Lonnie. You shit your pants?” This gets him out of his chair and cursing at her. Then she asks him a third and final time, “Lonnie. You shit your pants?” With that he grabs her by the shirt and forcefully throws her out of the house like Jazzy Jeff on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Once he threw her so hard she went tumbling down the tall, steep set of wooden stairs. This was early on in our relationship and I was freaked out and concerned that she was hurt. She just got up, laughed it off and said, “I totally deserved that.” And then we left.
Lonnie was not born retarded. He has arrested development. He was fine until he was four, and then he came down with a crazy fever that wasn’t dealt with quick enough. From my understanding, he was never the same since. If you ask him how old he is, he is either four or seven depending on what day it is. We tend to have two or three birthday parties a year for him. He gets a real kick out of birthday parties.
One thing he does not get a kick out of doctors or dentists. He’s deathly afraid of going to the doctors or a hospital. But that’s a subject for another chapter.
I’ll leave you with the story of these nude photos. Like I said, Lonnie spends most of his day at home watching TV Land while everyone else is at work. We often wonder if he even moves off his chair while he’s home alone other than to go to the bathroom or eat. One day my mother-in-law learned of a low-res, motion-operated, digital camera that our hunter friend, Chris, uses to see what kind of deer are out on his property. He positions it in the trees for days and every time a deer passes the camera clicks a shot. Naturally we thought this would be perfect to see what Lonnie was doing all day.
The first day was a dud. We placed the camera in the refrigerator to see how often he ate. As expected, there were very many photos of him getting food in the course of the day. Lonnie loves to eat. But it became the same image over and over so the next day we moved the camera over his recliner chair (it has a remote control that raises and lowers him and it drives him crazy when I raise it so high that he almost falls out of it and then lower it to the ground…for hours). This second day’s results were disturbing, as you can see. The camera took hundreds of photos in an eight-hour stretch showing that Lonnie barely sat in his chair at all when no one was home. He moved about the house non-stop, changing outfits four times in the course of the day and drinking upwards to 15 Diet Pepsis. As we scrolled through the shitload of photos one by one our jaws hit the floor when sandwiched somewhere in the middle of his day were the two nude photos of Lonnie. At some point Lonnie got buck-naked and was cruising around the house. We asked him about it but Lonnie does not explain himself. Ever. I like to think he caught on to the camera taking his picture and to mess with us gave us a little Full Monty.
As this column continues, and yes, sadly, it will continue every week, you will see more and more of Lonnie. He’s my favorite thing on this planet to talk about. (Maybe next week I’ll explain how he shit on the carpet and blamed it on the cat.) I’m jealous of Lonnie and his other special-needs pals. I spend most of my days stressed over something or other but not them. They are the happiest people day in and day out. And I’m hoping if I spend more time with them that happiness will rub off on me.