Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Las Vegas hate/love/hate story, part 2

Nice grandparents, 1983
Some backstory to the Las Vegas narrative I started the other day, to explain how my uncle moved to Las Vegas, and why I cared so much when he vanished.

For Mormons, my paternal grandparents had very few children. They had just two, my father and his younger brother, Richard. We were a small family, but close. When I was a kid, the only vacation my family ever took was to visit my grandparents, which meant visiting Richard as well, because he always lived with them, or near them. They kept him out of trouble and when they couldn't keep him out of trouble, they bailed him out of trouble.
Bob, Glade, Richard
And Richard got in trouble. Richard was trouble. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Richard was bipolar. Or schizophrenic. Or something. The diagnoses varied, but even when he wasn't sick, Richard was completely crazy, in all the best and worst meanings of the word. He was extravagantly warm and opinionated, loving and funny, stubborn, belligerent, and morbid, and he had the most amazing cackling laugh. In a family of mild, moderate people, he was intransigent and passionate in his likes and dislikes.  He loved Scotch, Joan Baez, Bear Lake raspberries, and Navajo jewelry. He disliked Aunt Ida, pigs, pork, and several tight-lipped "witch" ladies in my grandmother's ward. He drove a brown Mustang until he lost his license for drunk driving, and he smelled like cigarettes and drug store cologne.

Richard was extremely sentimental and, perhaps because he had no children of his own, he was particularly sentimental about his nieces. The world is full of bad, abusive, and merely indifferent uncles. Richard, for all his problems, was a prince among uncles. My sister Justine and I could not have loved him more, and it went both ways.

I don't want to romanticize, though.  By the time I was 15, I knew Richard was a wreck, irresponsible and impossible, a heartbreaking burden that gradually became a crushing burden on my well-meaning grandparents. Here's what my grandparents and Richard taught me about parenting: You do not necessarily reap what you sow.

In the mid-1990s, Richard was checked in to the state mental hospital in Provo. While he was there, my grandparents both died, within months of each other, almost like they needed to hurry up and check out before he was released because they were too old and tired to take care of him anymore.

Shortly thereafter, without consulting my father, someone on staff at the hospital bought Richard a one-way ticket to Las Vegas, gave him a wad of cash, and put him on a plane.  I don't know who that person was, but what a heel.

Richard, of course, was delighted. Vegas was his Xanadu. He checked into the Stardust Hotel, called us drunk and jubilant late at night, spent all his money, and within a few weeks, disappeared.
Part 3 coming soon.


  1. Uh . . . I'm usually vengeful, not litigious, but . . . malpractice suit, anyone?

  2. How interesting! Do tell more; can't wait for next installment. Makes you think that no matter what, you just never know.

  3. I had that uncle, too. He was my great uncle actually, one of my grandpa's younger brothers, but only about 8 or 9 years older than my mom. He had the sweetest disposition, so kind and funny, and he could eat and eat and eat! Unfortunately he could also drink and drink and drink, which made his life alot harder than he deserved. He was lucky to have lots of brothers and sisters to take care of him. He died 20 years ago this Saturday, in a drunk driving car accident. Ironically, he wasn't the drunk driver.

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