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Uncle Bronty and the 18-Wheeler:

This one is another story which obviously didn’t happen quite as I first told it, but until recently I was never clear on just what did happen, and my form of telling it at least drafted it into a story.

At the relevant point in time the annual tribal rite consisted of the family all getting together on Whatsmas eve to open our presents to each other.

This was a comparatively late-breaking tradition, dating only from the point at which all three of my cousins had married or left their parents’ home, and Val and her husband had started a family. I suspect that Dad (and Ida) and I were originally included mainly out of either habit or sympathy.

Nowadays the rite seems to be limited to me, my two surviving cousins, plus spouses, and Aunt Pisces’s stepsister all getting together at some point close to Whatsmas, to have lunch (usually at Marie Callendar's) and exchange news, although not gifts.

But that’s beside the point. At the time of which I speak, these gatherings included a reasonably full complement of the older generation, and had more often than not taken place at my cousin Val’s.

Of course, in some years, the gather would be postponed until 12th Night due to nobody’s schedules being on speaking terms in December, but this had not originally been one of those years — although it certainly ended up as one.

A few days before Whatsmas eve, I got a call from Aunt Pisces to tell me that everything was postponed a week since everyone down at Val’s had colds and “your uncle isn’t feeling very well.” After she hung up, I thought that over for a moment or so and realized both that Uncle Bronty was well into his mid-60s and that time might be catching up with him.

That was a bit depressing, since Uncle Bronty had always been one of life’s constants, and even developing throat cancer six years earlier hadn’t slowed him down much.

(Uncle Bronty was a lifetime non-smoker, but he had the misfortune of being born into a cancer-prone family. At that, he was the only one of the five — out of six — siblings who developed malignant tumors to survive past the 5-year “cure” date.)

Well, more fool I, I discovered when driving down to Val’s with another part of the clan a week or so later.

What appeared to have happened (insofar as I was able to piece the matter together at the time) was that Uncle Bronty had set off for work in his Jaguar one foggy morning, and, having been half a step from legally blind all his life, ended up inadvertently playing “rivers and bridges” with an 18-wheeler which he “didn’t see”.

Now, there is about enough clearance for a jag under an 18-wheeler, but since the trucker hadn’t seen him either, it was still moving. One of the 18 wheels clipped the jag and Uncle Bronty spun out. The jag ended up with a dent in its top, and so had Uncle Bronty, and he, consequently, “wasn’t feeling very well”.

(Whatever had actually happened, he seemed okay by 12th Night.)

Much later I finally got a more accurate story from my cousin Val. He had indeed set off to work on a foggy morning. Not, however, in the Jaguar, but in one of his other cars. And he *did*, indeed, drive directly into an 18-wheeler that was right in front of him.

Evidently the truck was either white or grey, and he just plain didn’t see it in the fog. He must also have driven into it from a dead stop at a stop sign because he managed to hit the brake and stop the car before decapitating himself. The hood of the car had indeed gone under the truck, and the truck was still moving. But there was just about enough clearance, so everyone managed to drive away from the wreck with no more than fairly minor damage.

But it still sounds like it was a pretty close call.