Uncle Ollie

I had decided to take the day off work. A good friend was having a birthday and I wanted to take her to lunch to celebrate her special day. My friend, Marion, lived inFairfax,Virginia, a 45-minute drive away and we had plans to meet at one o’clock.

I was at home doing a few chores that morning when my phone rang and my Aunt Rita was on the other end. She asked me to swing by and collect her, plus my grandmother and Mary Ann, so we could travel together toFredericksburgfor a visit to my Aunt Martha and Uncle Ollie. In all these twenty five years of my life, I had never met my Uncle Ollie.

I tried to explain to Rita that I was meeting a friend for lunch but she felt I had enough time to do both – meaning pick them up, meet my friend and then come back and get them for the drive home. Well, it sounded like I didn’t have much choice in the matter, so I just said “Yes, ma’am,” got dressed and drove over to get them.

I was not happy about this and I am sure my mood showed during the drive to Martha’s and Ollie’s house. I didn’t get many days off work back then and I felt I was being imposed upon. To me, it just didn’t seem fair.

I tried to make the best of it, but it was pretty difficult to dispel the negative feelings I was experiencing.Marionliving inFairfaxwas one thing, but having to go toFredericksburgwas putting me an hour farther out in the other direction. I knew I would be on the road for quite a while that day.

I pulled up at Rita’s home and everyone got in, with my aunt sitting in the front seat beside me. We were driving along when Rita looked at my gas gauge and asked me if I had enough gas to get us where we needed to be. I told her not to worry, that we were fine for now and I would stop for gas later. It took us one hour and a half to get toFredericksburgthat morning which was not too bad, considering the traffic. I dropped everyone off and told them I would be back in a bit. I met up with my friend and had lunch but really couldn’t stay as I had planned, because my time was running short and I had to head back to pick up the family.

I pulled up in front of Martha’s and Ollie’s house with the intention to go in and meet my Uncle Ollie. He was my grandmother’s brother and they were of Cherokee Indian heritage, originally fromNorth Carolina. When I walked in, everyone was in the kitchen except for my uncle. I asked where he was and, as I did, the kitchen door opened and in walked this really tall, red-skinned, black-haired man.

I looked up and I’m sure my mouth was open as I gazed into his intense, dark brown eyes. Ollie’s red skin stood out but the intensity of his gaze really set me back. I intuitively felt that he had been around a long time. I would have considered him an “old soul” – definitely someone who had much knowledge. My grandmother had the same intense eyes but her skin was fair. You would have never believed they were related.

Ollie spoke to me and, as he did, I noticed that he had a goiter in his throat. I would have asked about the goiter but I didn’t feel it was appropriate, so I said nothing. My grandmother spoke up and told me we had to go and she let me know Aunt Martha was coming with us. I told my Uncle Ollie “goodbye” and said that I really enjoyed our time together.

Once everyone climbed into the car, we took off again. My Aunt Rita once more was sitting up front, only this time I looked at the gas gauge. Shoot! I had forgotten to get gas and it was on “empty.” I thought that I could last until the next exit so I didn’t say anything.

I don’t have to tell you I ran out of gas.

I had stayed in the right lane so all I had to do was pull off to the side. I looked over at my aunt waiting for her to give me hell but she said nothing. We had to get out of the car, but what bothered me most was seeing my grandmother and Aunt Martha standing there as the interstate traffic whizzed by. They were not exactly young, maybe in their late sixties to early seventies. No one said anything to me… so I started walking.

I’m sure God was looking out for us because within ten minutes a policeman pulled up beside me. I let him know I had run out of gas and he told me he would be right back and, in the meantime, that I was to go back to the car with my family.

The officer returned within a half hour with enough gas to get me to the next service station. I thanked him profusely as I pulled away and everyone settled in for the drive home. It was quiet as I drove and I’m glad they didn’t speak because I already felt bad enough. I waited for my aunt to “let me have it,” but she remained quiet. One thing for sure – she knew how to push my buttons. I finally dropped everyone off and headed back to my own house.

I must say that day was a real adventure and I bet I won’t ever let myself run out of gas again. I wondered what my Uncle Ollie would say when Aunt Martha told him about our adventures. I could only hope that he didn’t get too upset with me. My Aunt Rita never mentioned it to me, either, but she really didn’t have to, because the “silent treatment” got her message across quite effectively.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the next time she asks me to do something, I will simply say “Yes, ma’am.” No attitude. No resistance. And, thank goodness, no silent treatment.