One of the pleasures I had by being related to “Uncle Tip” was that I could enjoy humor with him. He loved to laugh . . . and he loved practical jokes – even if the jokes were played on him.
I always had a great deal of respect for him – particularly because he looked out for his sister (Helen – my mother) and because he had a love of music as I do.
He was visiting us in Chicago several years ago and I had tickets to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Brahms Symphony #1 (sometimes referred to as “Beethoven’s Tenth”). Uncle Tip was thrilled because he always wanted to hear the CSO horn player, Dale Clevenger, play the horn call at the beginning of the fourth movement.
We went to the performance and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
I thought I would give him a gift to commemorate the performance, so I bought the complete set of Brahms symphonies #1 through #4 and sent it to him. The CSO had just won a Grammy award for the album.
A few weeks later, I received an LP record from him and a note explaining that there were many kinds of music in the world which we all should learn to appreciate. I was so impressed by his thoughtfulness and my respect for him that I quickly put it on an tape so I could play it in the car as I drove to and from work – Wheaton to downtown Chicago which usually took about 45 minutes to an hour.
I would drive in at 5AM and listen to it all the way to work and back. It was Bulgarian folk music sung by a bunch of gypsies. What noise! It was AWFUL. A bunch of moaning, screeching, yelling and incoherent sounds. I kept listening to it because, since it came from my Uncle Tip, it must be good. But I could NEVER learn to even enjoy it at all.
I didn’t know what to tell him because I thought that I might offend him by saying I thought it was shit . . . and I didn’t want him to think that I was incapable of appreciating all sorts of music.
So I told Helen about it and asked her what to do. He was going to be visiting her and she said that she would mention it to him.
When he was visiting her, she told me that I had had trouble appreciating the music on the LP he had sent to me.
He laughed out loud and said, “That’s the worst stuff I have ever heard! It’s horrible!”
Well, the old goat got me on that one. But, with revenge in my mind, I conjured up a plot to get back at him.
So I created a very professional looking certificate and a nice long business letter. The certificate showed that my mother had purchased a time-share condo in Port Sulphur, LA for $50,000. The certificate said that she was authorized to use the condo for two weeks each year and that she would be awarded a $50 certificate at the cajun cooking store, five days of free cajun cooking lessons, and a one time free dinner at the Vestorial Grill on New Years Eve. The business letter was very professional and thanked “Mrs.Peterson” for purchasing the time share and for the $50,000 and acknowledged receipt of the money. It also suggested that she might offer the same sort of deal to any of her siblings that might be interested. It was signed by some guy who sounded like a real con-man from New Orleans.
The intent was to put the certificate and letter on the table where Tip would be sitting so he would see it on his next visit.
When he went to see her again, with his friend Jo, we secretly told Jo about it and she agreed to go along with the con.
When he sat down at the table, Helen was busy in the kitchen doing something and Tip perused the documents.
Then he got up and shouted, “Helen, what’s this all about?”
She told him that some really nice man paid her a visit and sold her a time share for a condo in Louisiana. (If you don’t know where Port Sulphur is, check it out on the map.) Jo piped in that she had heard about the time shares and they sounded like fun.
Tip asked, “You didn’t give them any money, did you?”
My mother replied, “Oh yes, the man was very nice.”
“OH MY GOD!! OH MY GOD!! shouted Tip. “It’s gone! It’s gone!”
While he was reacting, my mother called me and then called Tip over to the phone.
“I gotcha, you old fart,” I said with glee!
“Is this a joke? Is this a joke? ” he asked. “Please tell me it’s a joke!”
I told him about it and listened for the next few minutes of his solid laughter. He had been “HAD!” He loved it.
Periodically during his visit with my mom, he would stop and say, “Oh my god, I’m so glad that was a joke!”
I’ll miss that guy – I loved him. He was special. After that whenever we got together, we would retell the stories of these pranks which we so thoroughly enjoyed.
We all were lucky to have had him in our lives.