I Wish I Could Have Swapped Out My Parents For My Aunt And Uncle

My parents on vacation in Florida circa 1975.
My parents on vacation in Florida circa 1975.

As I sit here at the keyboard staring blankly at the gaping deficits in my personality, I wonder whether I’d be more well-adjusted if I’d been allowed to pick my parents.

My parents—you know, the ones who “did it” and spawned me in the process—have both been dead for years. Thus, they can’t defend themselves from the allegation that I didn’t like them while they were alive and still don’t like them now that they’re dead. Maybe you should visit their graves and ask them whether I’m lying. I think the rule is that they roll over once in their grave for “yes” and twice for “no.”

But no, I didn’t like them, they didn’t like me, and those were the only two things we could ever agree on.

But holy loving bleeding screaming squirming pain-stricken Jesus nailed to a cross and howling like a wolverine in agony, did I absolutely LOVE (!!!<3!!!) my Aunt Marion and Uncle Juney. They were, are, and always will be two of my favorite people of all time. Both of them were funny as hell, and both radiated so much charm that it turned and rounded the street corner ten feet before they did. It frustrates me that they were so fucking close to me genetically, but in my roll of the dice, I crapped out and was doomed to have their siblings raise me instead.

Mom and dad were NOT funny people. One thing that hits me like a migraine headache is that I can’t ever remember either of them ever making me laugh. Ever.

My aunt Marion McKay (née Parker) in 2005, age 84.
My aunt Marion McKay (née Parker) in 2005, age 84.

But Aunt Marion was, by far, the funniest woman I’ve ever known. The last time I saw her, when she lived all alone in a little house in SW Philly out near the oil refineries, she was 84 and still as sharp as Don Rickles. Her comedic timing, delivered in that caustic and cringeworthy Philly/Baltimore accent, was flawless.

Aside from her being a comedic genius, it was the little things Aunt Marion did, the muted thoughtful acts of kindness, that set her apart from my mom. There was the time I drank vodka out of her refrigerator at eight years old and she was cool about it and didn’t try to get me in trouble. There was the time she packed a picnic basket filled with bananas and Italian cookies as we all headed down to the Wildwood shore, the sort of nice little gesture that would have never occurred to my mom.

Aunt Marion was my mother’s older sister. She and mom were two of eleven boys and girls. People had more kids way back then.

L-R: Uncle Carlton Goad (AKA "Carty"), my father, Uncle Leon Goad, Jr. (AKA "Juney") in Vermont circa 1978
L-R: Uncle Carlton Goad (AKA “Carty”), my father, Uncle Leon Goad, Jr. (AKA “Juney”) in Vermont circa 1978

My father was the oldest of four boys from the hills of Vermont. Uncle Juney was his youngest brother. He got the nickname “Juney” not only because he was the youngest, but because he was named after my grandfather, Leon Goad. Whereas my dad was wrapped tighter than a mongoose that got accidentally stuck in a piston, Uncle Juney was as laid-back as the rolling green Vermont countryside. I spent a couple summers up there with him and his family as a kid, and I can’t recall ever thinking anything negative about him—that’s a fucking MIRACLE for me. Their home environment completely lacked the tension and misery of mine. And he was so folksy and solid and charming and mischievous and…sober.

That was a huge difference not only between him and my father, but between him and my Uncle Carty (Carlton Goad), who was also a lifelong lush. Uncle Carty wound up marrying my mom about a dozen years after my dad died, which is another entire slab of creepiness which I’d rather not get into right now because it involves stories such as the time he cracked his pelvis in the bathtub while showering and was screaming out in pain dragging himself across the floor by his elbows while my mother would later brag that she pretended she was asleep the whole time. But it’s my mom I had “issues” with, not Uncle Carty. I didn’t even have problems with him drinking so much because he was able to handle it. I do have problems with the fact he wound up fucking my mom. I think anyone who ever fucked my mom is disgusting, and that includes my dad. I can’t stand the fact that I gestated inside her vagina for so long.

OK. Moving along…

Obviously I’m still bitter at my parents, and part of the evidence that I may have been a pain in the ass as a kid is the fact that I’m still writing about this shit all these centuries later.

But would I be so bitter and petty and vindictive and spiteful if Aunt Marion and Uncle Juney had raised me instead?

Or is one’s personality to some degree inborn? Environment plays a big role, but it can’t possibly be everything. If it was, how did Uncle Juney, raised by the same parents under the same rural Depression-era conditions as my father, wind up with such a starkly different personality? And how did Aunt Marion, who was crammed together with 10 other siblings including my mom in a series of Philly apartments and row homes, wind up with a personality that was almost a photographic negative of my mother’s?

I may have ended up with a similar personality whether I had my shitty parents or not. But something tells me that if Aunt Marion and Uncle Juney had wound up in charge of my rearin’, I’d have wound up a trifle more happy-go-lucky. I spent hundreds of hours with each of them, and I don’t ever remember even the slightest of unpleasantries.

In the end, I suspect it’s better to be raised by parents who have a sense of humor. But I wish I knew for sure. TC mark


Read Jim Goad’s terrifying yet amusing ebook about fending off fans turned stalkers.

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Jim Goad

Stop worrying about good and bad...and start thinking about true and false.

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