Monday, November 12, 2012


Every family has one - that member whose presence is tolerated solely because everyone feels pity for that person. They show up at gatherings, widely ignored, and then are the butt of jokes when not around.

My family has several - actually, more members of my family fit into that category than not, which is bewildering. There's the uncle who painted a car with a broom; the cousin who sits in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth all day long, lighting and putting out matches and then sniffing the fumes; the cousin who porked a turkey through a fence.

And then there's Peachie.

Now, morbid obesity runs in my family. My grandmother and both of her siblings were full-on wide loads, weighing 400+ pounds each, and their outfits consisted of mumus and sansabelt pants that were stretched to capacity. They rarely moved, and when they did expend the energy needed to get up out of their chairs, it was generally because they were in search of a bulk order of Twinkies or a side of beef. Sated, they would waddle back to their compacted seats and turn on their "stories" - soap operas to the rest of the world.

Peachie was my grandmother's younger sister. Her face resembled something you'd find living under a moist log. Her personality was akin to that of a dead duck. She was unabashedly obsessed with food, and her brain barely operated above the first-grade level. Unemployable, she was passed from family household to family household, staying only as long as the people with whom she was boarding could stand her or afford to keep up with her massive grocery list.

When the people with whom she was staying in Lake Wales, Florida gave her the boot, my uncle and aunt, who had two children, let her move into their house with the stipulation that she would watch their children while they were at work. This turn of events would lead to one of the longest-running jokes in my family history, but they were blissfully ignorant of this fact at the time; they were just trying to be good family members.

My aunt and uncle set up their Florida room as a makeshift bedroom for Peachie. There was a daybed and room for her meager belongings, most of which were either inspirational phrases laminated onto driftwood plaques or shell art clowns holding plastic balloons. A few pieces of art adorned the walls - sad-eyed kittens gazed plaintively while asking the viewer to "Hang In There," and Jesus led the viewer along the beach in the perennially tacky "Footprints." Knitted cozies covered everything - tissue boxes, vases, shoes.

My aunt has very strict guidelines as far as home decorating goes. She enjoys crystal, and has a huge collection of it. The sight of these yarned and carved abortions that graced Peachie's nook in her home sent her into a foaming frenzy, and she practically had to wear blinders while walking near Peachie's zone to keep from strangling people.

As Peachie settled in, we noticed things. First of all, she farted when she walked. Loudly. And it would happen anywhere - in the mall, in Steak -n- Shake, at funerals, in church. They slipped out and sounded like balloons being popped, startling everyone around. We, as children, would have to run away to keep from laughing in her face. On many occasions, we didn't make it, and the adults in the family would be mortified. Peachie, however, just stared ahead, either blissfully ignorant to the fact that gas had actually managed to maneuver its way through the torrential tunnels of her ass cheeks or pretending to be unaware that the foul incident had occurred.

She had huge open sores all over her arms which she spent her time picking. She loved to do this at the table while people were eating, and it caused a lot of unintentional weight loss in my family - people were so horrified by the bloody lacerations covering her upper arms that they couldn't possibly consume their pot pies or hoagies.

The most important thing, legendary in my family, that came to light about Peachie, was that she made involuntary noises whenever she found out that food was around. "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh..." she would groan, as if she were preparing for a particularly vulgar sex act. "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh..." over the chocolate cake. Over the roast beef at Christmas. Over a box of Saltines. It didn't matter to her - if it was food, it turned her on. Big time.

Her favorite snack was something she called "bologna rolls." That's exactly what it was - a slice of bologna rolled up into a tube. She would eat one, walk back to the couch and sit down, then get up, go back to the refrigerator and say, "I'm gonna have me another bologna roll," and then go back to the couch. It was as if she were following the instructions on the shampoo bottle - "lather, rinse, repeat," but had switched out the shampoo for bologna. She would keep this up until the pack of bologna was gone, and then she would sulk.

The Scarsdale diet was popular in the early 80s. Cottage cheese, plain hamburger patties and other boring foods were supposed to help the fat and lazy lose weight, and Peachie was a prime candidate. She claimed she was going to lose weight, and we all supported her. Her goal was set, and she volunteered herself freely to the cause, stating that the "Clydesdale" diet would be good for her. Weeks went by and she seemed to be following the diet accordingly - lame ass food that tasted like air seemed to be keeping her sated and happy.

One day my uncle came home early and she ran out the back door really quickly. He followed her outside to see what was going on, and then called my father to relate the following information: "I busted Peach with a piece of toast. She was scrubbing the windows with Windex and had a paper towel with her when she went out in the backyard, and god damn if she wasn't eating that toast covered in Windex!"

Soon after, they discovered a crate (yes, a CRATE) of M&Ms hidden under her bed. How she got them, no one will ever know, for the final straw in her stay at Joel and Cheri's was just around the corner.

It all happened so quickly.

My aunt was cooking a huge pot of green beans, enough to feed the entire family for days. She, my uncle and cousins left the home and Peachie stayed behind, the green beans cooking fervently on the stove. All seemed to be fine.

When they came back to that home, they opened their door to a house of horrors few could witness and survive.

From Peachie's bedroom to the bathroom, which was on the other end of the house, was a continuous stream of diarrhea. The bathroom was caked from top to bottom in shit, and the good white towels were thrown into the bathtub, befouled by a brown concoction. The green beans were gone.

Soon after that, Peachie was shipped back to her hometown, Sidney, Ohio, where she got subsidized housing and visited with her brother and his children. She was finally living alone.

The last time I saw her, we went to her tiny domicile and looked at all the crocheted clowns, statues of kittens batting string, praying hands wallhangers, and other definitions of tackiness while trying to make small talk with someone who was not capable of holding a conversation that went past discussing the candy aisle at the local supermarket. We then drove her to her favorite restaurant, Hussey's, which was several towns away. As we got closer to the restaurant, the "uh-uh-uh-uh-uh" started in. I played with the ducks in the pond by the restaurant and pretended I wasn't associated with her.

She died soon after that, and they had to cut the door frame to twice its original size to get her out.

She's long gone, but whenever my family gets together, we all feign orgasmic bliss over the food in her honor.

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