T-Fred

A story about one of the most important people in my life.

Cajun French born and bred, this story is about my uncle, T-Fred. I don't even know how he met, Noonie, my mother's sister. But I always felt the blood running through my veins was the same as his. He loved me from my beginning and my first recollection was I adored him.

He wasn't stikingly handsome. He was cute--eyes that twinkled with mischief. His hair was thick--thick to the day he died. It grew straight up into a crew cut. I drew great pleasure in never making it lie down.

We played a game he named "Meech a Color." One would choose a colored object, the other would guess it. One day I chose the red eye of my grandmother, MeMe's, caged canary, Sweet. Hard as he tried T-Fred failed the guess test. Impatient, to give him a clue, I leapt onto the back of one of Noonie's newly purchased, tucked and tufted, fan back chairs. For a split second I was eyeball to eyeball with Sweet, then over she and I and the table and chair went. Sweet and I and the table were o.k. The chair was not--one leg broken off--a nub. Swiftly and cleverly he reattached the leg with finishing nails, thinking my aunt wouldn't notice. She was not that kind of woman.

The picture window that framed two matching chairs, a round, tiered mahogany table filled with Fenton glassware and Sweet told that story of "Meech A Color." From that day till, it displayed Sweet next to a lone chair, and an empty tiered table.

At an early age I saw myself becoming a famous singer--the likes of Sandre Dee, Annette Funicello, Bobby Darin or Fabian. This vision for my future was painted vividly by T-Fred. He thought I had the voice of an angel. He never tired of my performances, especially my rendition of Patti Page's,"Tennessee Waltz." I can hear him now, "Sing it again, Babe." That was his all time favorite. "Come Down From Your Ivory Tower" was another. As was, "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?" With that one he thought my cousin, Sue Gayle, and I should try out for Ted Mack's Amateur Hour. And because I knocked my two front teeth out before the age of two, he really loved to hear, year round, "All I Want For Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth."

I never made it to the big stage, but all through elementary and high school I was inspired to be in chorus. My senior year, for our big production, I sang solo, "Climb Every Mountain," and secretly dedicated it to T-Fred.

His neck was always red and had deep, criss-crossed wrinkles--sort of diamond-shaped. He was a welder. Just for me out of galvanized pipe he made an A-framed swing with two wooden seats hanging from chains. It was part of his front yard for as long as I can remember.I recall hearing family members say it would be there when we're all gone.

As loving, kind and funny as he was to me, he could wring a chicken's neck with the meanest of men. In his backyard he carefully tended to Bantys, only to pronounce the death sentence when he wanted poultry for supper. I recently found a picture of him proudly standing in front of the chicken coups.

I had no siblings. MeMe was my roommate. I lived in an adult's world, except for T-Fred. He gave me freedom to act like a child--he met me on my level. He was my playmate and my friend, my admirer. He loved me for me. I miss him dearly.

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