Either Hypocrisy or Mixed Messages (A Memory)

In the early 2000s, my Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck finally tried to learn to use a computer. Ardith got a special discount for internet, having worked at AT&T seemingly forever. I wasn’t involved in buying the computer: Ardith bought it with winnings at a casino. The computer was very slow and wasn’t very much to begin with. I fixed that miserable machine dozens of times, adding memory, a bigger hard drive, replacing the power supply, reloading the OS a couple of times, etc.

My focus with the aunt and uncle was to get them to see the utility of a computer for bookkeeping, email, weather, and easily staying in touch with anyone in the world. I also loaded the computer with thousands of pictures. It was my hope that they computer would reduce the isolation that their retired lives and constant drinking were creating.It was an uphill climb, too. They seemed to attempt to use it most often after having too much to drink. It was a terrible combination and I ignored it as best as I could. I spent hours at their house, going through the same routines over and over in an attempt to get them able and comfortable using a computer. I spent a lot of time with Jimmy, teaching him to use antivirus software, fix minor issues and keep the computer running. But other people such as one of his half-sisters and a couple of friends of the family were constantly doing stupid stuff on the computer: not only looking at some fairly crazy stuff on the internet, but deleting important files, cancelling necessary stuff on the computer, etc.

Because my cousin Jimmy was at his parent’s house so often, it was usually he who used it go get on the internet and it was also his job to call me when something wasn’t working right. One thing Jimmy enjoyed were those stupid videos, the kind usually featured on America’s Funniest Home Videos. He also liked the ones that were a lot more vulgar, such as the ones featured on the movie/show “Jackass.” He would watch the same video over and over and over. Honestly, Jimmy loved watching porn on his parents computer, too. Instead of wasting my time trying to convince him not to, I instead showed him to try to keep it away from the accidental eyes of his parents.

I don’t know when exactly, but at some point, a supposed friend of the family “found” the videos that Jimmy had hidden on the computer. By way of preface, the friend of the family was a very shady character himself, having been involved in every nefarious activity he could get into. (Jimmy and I later had a good time making many funny pictures based on this guy, who I’ll call John to protect his guilt. Up until Jimmy died we would sometimes say “Even babies hated John” to get a good laugh.)

My Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck flipped out on Jimmy. (As much as they ever could flip out on him or become angry – he always escaped unscathed from consequences with them.) They then tried to act like all of it was somehow my fault and that I was some type of degenerate for letting Jimmy leave the horrible videos on the computer.

Also by way of preface, my Uncle Buck had always had one of the biggest porn magazine stashes in the world. It was in the upper left side of his bedroom closet. He also kept a few in the garage where his electronic repair area was located. He was certainly no stranger to either porn or illicit behavior. I’ve already told you stories of some of the absolute craziness and destructive behavior all of my family had been involved in, so  a repeat shouldn’t be necessary – just keep in mind that both my aunt and uncle were guilty of much, much worse behavior than looking at bad videos on a computer.

A few days later, I remember Aunt Ardith getting drunk and just going on and on about how sick Jimmy and I were. Using my normal direct approach, I told my aunt and uncle that they were being very hypocritical and should stop and compare their own behavior to any accusation towards Jimmy and especially toward me, as anything on the computer was Jimmy’s, not mine. I used examples of their own porn stashes, affairs, and DWIs as examples to drive home my point of hypocrisy. They got really angry because I pointed out the hypocrisy. It was one of the few times they got mad like that at me. They drank too much every day, so it was difficult to catch them in a normal state of mind, much less talk to them rationally.

I don’t know at what point one of them had complained to the Brinkley Aunts. Jimmy and I had one aunt in particular who was always judging people and turning her nose up at anything or anyone she disagreed with. This really angered Jimmy. He wanted to get 5 or 6 of his dad’s favorite porn magazines or vhs tapes and mail them to his aunts to see how his dad would enjoy being called out. I finally convinced Jimmy to not do anything stupid and let me come up with a way to get through to them. Had I to do it all over again, Jimmy and I would have loaded up their mailboxes with every kind of porn imaginable.

For a couple of days, I couldn’t figure out how to talk to Uncle Buck when he wasn’t drinking. I knew that there was no point even trying to get through to them if alcohol were present. After an inspiration, I wrote him a letter and put it in the middle of his newspaper. I drove over to his house at 4 in the morning and put the letter inside the rolled up paper and then put the paper on the porch. I knew that my uncle would find it, read it when he was sober and realize that Jimmy looking at videos in bad taste on the computer was almost meaningless in comparison to the things that our adult family members had put us through when we were growing up. I also reminded my uncle that he had short-changed Jimmy and I – as we had no way to be adults and talk to him when he wasn’t under the influence and Uncle Buck well knew my dislike of trying to be around alcoholics. I had written my uncle, detailing a few of the things that were MUCH worse in comparison to looking at bad videos on a computer, both words and violence that had direct impacts on living people.

When Jimmy read a copy of the letter, he teared up and told me that, until that moment, he had never really considered how crazy some of the stuff we had lived through had been. I might have used a verbal sledgehammer in my letter to my uncle, but it really opened Jimmy’s eyes. I think that letter I wrote to his dad made him see me more as an adult than he had ever thought about.

Anyway, I don’t know ‘why’ I wrote down this memory in particular.Every once and a while, Jimmy would joke about how pissed he had gotten about his parents telling the family in Brinkley about the videos on the computer. “F them,” he would say and then laugh.