It's a Family Affair

Today at work I wore a tie, and a button up shirt; I don't do this very often, but I was leaving early at five to head up North to the Gate. It turns out that my family's Hardware store "O.C. McCuin & Sons" (serving farm and home since 1914) was awarded the Swanton Chamber of commerce award for Outstanding Citizen(s) of the year. I wasn't going to miss this, I wasn't even going to be fashionably late.

In the past I've missed out on some family events, due either to things going on in town here, or more likely my apprehension w/ dealing my family, I haven't always been on the best of terms with certain family members, and because of my own pride or self righteousness I've had to live with the guilt of never making amends with my grandfather before he passed away. Since then I've taken a new outlook on my family; and what it means to be family.

So at Five o'clock sharp I hit the road, Zen Micro in hand and made my way to a little family restaurant nestled alongside the Missisquoi River called "The Abbey". I was early and though I thought I was dressed up; it turned out I was the only person in the little coat check/antichamber wearing jeans and sneakers, The Lady at the door to the banquet room stopped me as I walked in, "Excuse me, what's your name son." I got a little worried, I don't think anyone knew I was coming and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to pay; I didn't have any cash on me.

"I'm Tanner, Corey's Son."

"Trevor Corison... No, sorry hun you're not on the list."

"He's Corey's Son." The man behind me shot out; It was someone I vaguely recognized; I couldn't put a name to his face; but all my life growing up around the store I came to know so many of the regulars; "How're you Tanner, good to see you." he smiled at me and I shook his hand;

"You're alset hun."

I headed in, looked around; there were scores of people here, but no one yet from my family; lots of familiar faces turned, I smiled and nodded, shook some hands and quickly made my way to bar. Where was my sister I wondered? Tara and I have always been each other's sidekicks at these sort of things. Nowhere; I ordered a Gin tonic and, then another - I was starting to warm up a bit; I talked to my Dad's good friend and co-worker Kyle "Aka Bubba" Lothian; a bear of a man with a shaved head and beard and heart of gold; No matter how blacklisted in the past I was with some people, Kyle never gave me any shit, even inviting me out for a beer and a chat at my grandfather's funeral.

There she was; and she had brought her girl Sarah with her; My little sister has more nut than I'll ever have and has had to endure more hard stares and whispers to boot; Being the first lesbian (openly.) in a family like mine is an experience I'll luckily never have to endure, though being the first one to be arrested has a similar appeal; we both agree. She's wearing striped pants and boots, and as she explains to me, a shirt that has holes in it, that everyone seems to be commenting on tonight. We're the classic family black sheep; a role we've reluctantly embraced and at this point in our lives, I think we're both ready to move past. We laugh, and have another drink; mine a double her's a Malibu with coke; and when it's time to move into the main room and greet family we do so with little apprehension.

Down in the main room, everyone is milling around and getting seated and I'm overwhelmed and so proud that so many people have come out tonight. My father is nowhere to be seen, neither is my Uncle; I walk back to the coat check and find them wearing their all season suits, the ones that come out only for weddings and funerals, pacing around trying to make themselves useful, helping people put their coats on hooks and smiling big nervous smiles. It strikes me how scared he is to be recognized; and I think about how much I love him for being my father. When he sees me he smiles;

"How are you Mr. McCuin, didn't know if you were going to make it."

"Of course I would!" I say and we shake hands, and I swear that we're both as relieved as the other; I congratulate him, and he demurs, I ask him if I can get him a drink cause he looks nervous, but he doesn't drink, and if he does he has one girl drink and gets all red and flustered. We all head in, I sit at the table with the "Reserved McCuins" card; and I laugh at how true that statement is. The Evening begins with the head of the chamber of commerce talking about going to highschool with Corey (my dad) and Owen, and how happy he is to be giving this award; but first the food!

We all eat; I eat a lot; it was excellent; buffet style Franklin county eats; salad, potatoes, stuffing, pasta bake, and choice of roast beef and turkey - I hit it up twice.

When everyone's had their fill the MC gets up and starts doing his thing; a little roasting a little family history; Mostly things I've heard before; Founded by my Great-Great Grandfather O.C. just before WWI as a bulk grain station; one of the first people to successfully market bulk grain to farmers; later has three boys, the store expands to home goods and lumber, the Great Depression; for years they gave goods on credit, WW2, the boys join the Marines; come back tough asses; so on and so on - I look around the room and see smiling faces, a lot of older folks are nodding as if agreeing. A few older gentlemen stand up and give accounts of doing business with my family, and words like "Good businessmen", and "honest folks" are passed around and I swell with pride; one man Mr. Dick Cassidy; an old family friend and opinion writer for the local paper tells a story and finishes with three killer "You know you're old when" Jokes...

"You know you're old when you go through a motion detector, and it doesn't go off."

"You know you're old when you spend more time packing your pills" than your lunch"

"You know you're old when you can't find your ass with your hand"

My grandmother remembers meeting my grandfather when she and a few girlfriends were taking a weekend down in the states (she being from Bedford Quebec.) and stopped to get gas and McCuin's, apparently she was still very young, and he was quite a few years older; she doesn't give specifics as well as she used to but gets a far away look in her eyes and laughs warmly. She's told me a story where, because of the age difference and since my grandfather was enlisting in the Marines he went to one of her birthday parties, just before he was leaving and gave her only one present; a nickel and told her to call him when she turns 18.

Memories are passed around, and the whole time my father has a bright red face and an attentive smile; They end by presenting my dad and owen with this, and everyone calls for a speech; and reluctantly they step up to the mic; my father goes first; saying not more than ten words altogether, thanking everyone for being so good to the family, and then Owen steps up and says "same thing corey said" And their is a round of applause; and standing round; and again I feel so much happiness and pride. When I look over at my sister I can tell she could cry.

My father spent seven hours fixing someone's hot water heater on Christmas morning; that is just one reason he deserves this recognition, and I know inside, he has no reason at all why he was given this honor, he just assumes that it is the way it is, and that he's isn't doing anything more or less than anyone else would; and I suppose he's right; and maybe he isn't saving whales or ending hunger; perhaps giving a good price on a bag of dog food doesn't warrant ten paragraphs of late night blogging;

But in my world that is nothing but grays and indecision, easy ways out and intellectualized cowardice; I can't help but look at my father and the examples that he embodies unconsciously; I haven't figured them all out yet; some of them I want to keep personally for myself - but I think about them, all the time; and I hope I can do right by them by not merely thinking about them, but by being them, and doing them.

So Congratulations to my father, for working hard and doing right by our family. Love you.


angela said...

thanks tanner. this is the kind of stuff i think about when i think about "conversations with tanner". so thoughtful...plus, your family is one the great family sagas of our time. like "east of eden" highgate style. seriously. read it. and i know just what you mean about not saving whales or ending hunger...your dad is definitely doing right by the world each and every day. this is what we should all aim for. i'm glad you've documented this. print it. save it. compile it.

good morning.

casey said...

That was one of the most beautiful things I've read in quite some time. Fascinating, intimate and affecting.

You'd do well to carry on your family's tradition, even if you never sell dog food or canned corn.

Way to put persepctive on things!

Anonymous said...


That was such an insightful and lovely piece of writing. I'm impressed.


The Le Duo said...

tanner, no mention of kathy? come on...plus, what about the big lesbo make out mullet fest?

Tmoore said...

thanks you guys, i really apreciate that, i had alot of fun writting that last night; it's a pretty touchy subject for me altogether so it took me a while to get things to "Sorta makes sense." JB, the lesbian/non-lesbian makeout session is the next blog; aka "The Afterparty: Corey get's a little tipsy, Aunt Deb, get's a little freaky."

jds said...

That was a fantastic post. Thanks a lot for sharing.

lindsay said...

It's a little late, but I just randomly read this blog tonight and I'm now starting to tear a little.
Miss the fam. Miss you. I'm sending you lots of mental love right now.