February 12, 2002
Uncle Russ--for those of you who may not know--has always been a remarkable, orderly, organized and goal-oriented person. The Christmas that I was nine years old, Uncle Russ and my mother were both thinking forward to my working future., that is, what job options would be open to a disabled young woman. So, Uncle Russ arranged for me to have a typewriter that was being de-accessioned by the Phoenix Mutual (Life Insurance Company) where my mother worked. Ma's contribution to the Early Rehab Project was to purchase 1) caps to cover the keys, thus encouraging touch-typing, and 2) a chart demonstrating where those letters would appear, were the keys naked to begin with. Then she went back to all the family and career tasks for which she herself wore many hats, leaving me with Uncle Russ's great new toy, which is probably the best gift anyone has ever given me
My friend Claire and I immediately started a newspaper. In high school, my work was neatly typed, as were the many literary efforts of my friend Ken Larson, along with our own literary magazine. By then I was typing as fast as humanly possible without jamming the keys. We had our own literary newspaper. In college's work-study program, I alone typed well enough to transcribe great lectures. I was able to enhance my college lifestyle as a "Kelly Girl," and later on, to type my own press releases and work associated with being PR Director for the Arthritis Foundation.
I've always been able to save my own life through keyboarding skills, skills which were once almost uniquely in the "female" domain, encouraged in girls only--assuming that successful men would have their own secretaries, and who had yet dreamed of personal computers? Early on, I had skills that in the later, more demanding years of the PC, professional men would struggle to achieve. And oddly enough, well-developed keyboard skills seemed to pay a woman twice, even thrice as much as professional skills, in those days.
I now have an MS Natural keyboard and I'd match speed and accuracy with anyone. When I say I've had 45 years' experience, people don't believe me--but saying it always reminds me of Uncle Russ and the gift of the '47 Royal. "Dude, you're gettin' a Dell" means nothing compared to, "Uncle Russ wants you to have this typewriter."
So, Uncle Russ, Happy Birthday. I wanted to buy you a card, but I haven't been shopping since before Christmas. I wanted to MAKE you a card, but I can't find that photo of nine-year-old me sitting at the '47 Royal which rested on Grandpa's old table (Ma's current nightstand.)
But one of the ways we celebrate families is through our stories, so I thought I'd share my very special "Uncle Russ" story with all of you.
Happy Birthday, Uncle Russ!
On this eve of my eldest brother's birthday, I'll follow your example and tell one of my Brother Russ' stories. He is an excellent example of what we believe should be an older brother. The eleven years between us does not seem so long now that both of us are "up there", but it certainly did when I was young....and it seems that Russ still thinks of me as his ":little brother", sometimes like Avis did, calling me by the diminutive "Johnny". When I really was a child, Russ took pains to educate me in the most interesting ways. There were the times when he took me to the Bronx Zoo, the Hayden Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry (with all the working models) somewhere near the Radio City Music Hall in NYC. He took me to see an air show at the old Rentschler field in Hartford so that I could see some of the early airplanes, one which some pioneer had flown to a safari in Africa and another which belonged to Amelia Earhart. The most remembered educational trip, however, was a time somewhere near my 10th birthday when Russ told me that he would take me to Brainard Field in Hartford and get me a flight (my first one) with a WW I ace whose name now escapes me. It was a glorious trip, most beautiful as we flew around Hartford and over the Connecticut River at sunset. I thought that was "it" as we left to go home. However, on the way, Russ stopped his car and told me there was a subject he wanted to discuss with me. He explained that our Father was very reserved and found it hard to discuss any "private" matter, and that Pop had designated (probably at Russ' suggestion) that Russ tell me all that I was supposed to know (and which they supposed I did not know) about human reproduction (good old fashioned "sex"), the precautions which should be taken, the feelings which come over a young man at puberty and how to deal with them. Russ did a very good job at this task, but the old New England Yankee reserve was, in him, then almost as pronounced as it was in Pop. Of course, I was and am thankful that he gave me that "talk", but, in later years, some aspects of its telling came to be humorous to me, and I suspect, to Russ as well. Toward the end of Pop's life, he lost a bit of the reserve and we talked on the porch at Elm Hill about his delegation of the duty to Russ. We laughed about some of it, but both of us were glad that Russ stepped up to the mission.
Before I end this posting, I do want to tell you all that I had great fear of what my "coming out" would do to my relationship with Russ. After all, he was the old traditional New Englander. It was he that believed it necessary to travel to distant family members (me in OK then) to tell us personally that he was getting divorced. As it turned out, there was no need for my fear to tell him that I am gay. I received from him one of the most loving and accepting letters of acceptance I have ever seen. It certainly was the most loving and accepting letter I have ever received. I have no shame to tell you all that I cried openly with joy at his loving words.
Here's to you, my elder brother! May God continue to bless you with His love and acceptance.
Well, Uncle Russ didn't live nearby while I was growing up, so memories are rather sparse.
I do remember the time he and Alleene visited my mother and myself in Vermont. Took us out to dinner at the Brown Derby in Montpelier. While waiting for the food to arrive, Russ asked, "How can you increase the size of a window without increasing either its height or width?" I immediately said by making it a bay window, but this was not the answer he was looking for. Just couldn't figure it out. I had pretty much decided he was just an old man yanking my chain. Turns out he had a valid answer. If the starting window were a square window were tipped over, resting on one of its corners, making it resemble a diamond shape, you could make right angles off the corners. Bigger window, height and width remain the same. Since then, I've been known to use that one with kids myself.
I also remember dessert arriving and Alleene saying to me, "I really don't care for cherries very much. Would you like to have mine?" I didn't want to rob a guest of the best part of dessert. I kept declining the offer, but she kept insisting, telling me that she really hated cherries, and they were just going to be thrown out, anyway. Well, OK, then. I later asked my mom how someone could possibly not like cherries. She said she thought Alleene was just trying to be polite.
Way to impress a kid!
Yes, family members, Russ was always the Big Brother to us, the members of Squad B (as Pop called the younger three). The older ones of the family called Eunice and me The Little girls! Hah. That was a long time ago. Everyone laughed when John (the littlest) remarked that the Little Girls were coming. I well remember how Russ used his small blackboard to demonstrate something we should be learning. Also, the magic tricks he showed us. My son, Bob, has adopted his trick of removing the end of his thumb.
I also remember his taking us to Biltmore St. hill on the old Flexible Flyer sled. Mother wouldn't let us go alone, so he took us. How many brothers would have that much patience? Not many, but our big brother did. When he was able to drive a car (remember the one with the rumble seat?) he would take us out for a ride in it. I remember his driving Mother to Chicopee Falls to visit with her aunt Eleanor. (He left and went somewhere to study, I believe it was for the Reserve Army commission.)
Chris has her own Uncle Russ big brother (or big Uncle) story. When we visited them just a couple of years ago, she decided to walk home from a restaurant where we ate, and took a little detour on the way because it was a nice night. Well, Russ was very upset with her because as his guest, he felt responsible for her. He was really upset and worried. Chris did not mind his lecture, however, because she felt the love behind his concern.
So, those are the Big Brother stories that come to mind today. When we get everyone's stories together, what we come up with is a very remarkable person - our Big Brother, Russell Pasco.
Carol (the "little" sister) .
I guess it is not too late to add another Russ story, though my memories, being older than those of my children, are somewhat fainter. What I remember most often is how Russ was nominated to take me to the movies when my parents thought I was too young to go alone. Especially I remember our seeing (in black and white, of course) pictures of Admiral Byrd at Antarctica. Probably Russ was remembering that old film, as I was, when he himself travelled there several years ago. Then there was at least one movie, maybe more, of the explorers Osa and Martin Johnson, and their adventures in Africa. Note that we were allowed only the "educational" movies, or maybe it was not what we were allowed so much as what Russ chose. His love of travelling the world started that far back. I hope Russ remembers these movie excursions as happily as I.
"little sister" Eunice