Funny how the mind works. While driving the other day, a thought came to me. It actually manifested itself just after some guy cut me out at a busy intersection. I wasn’t thrilled about it and I thought of what it means to have a “temper.” When you say, things like, “Boy, he’s got a temper” it isn’t meant to be a compliment. So, we can infer that having a temper is not good, right? Well, if that’s the case, then why is it also bad when we say that someone lost his temper? Such as, “Joe lost his temper when the Phillies blew the game in the bottom of the ninth.” If a temper is bad to have then it should be a good thing when you lose it!
My Uncle Freddie, whom I loved very much, was the second oldest of the Sacchetti brothers. He had the quickest Italian temper in the family. When he got angry, after the verbal barrage, he tended to throw things. Like, when I was 18 and a freshman in college, he threw a fish head at me while we were “crabbing.” Since fishing, crabbing and playing the horses were among his passions he took all of these very seriously. As we sat for about one hour in our rented row boat, I started singing Motown songs since the crabs weren’t biting and I was bored. My father and grandfather tolerated my vocals but my uncle was not impressed.
The conversation went something like this:
“ … I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May.”
“ … Shut up, Charlie, you’ll scare the crabs away.”
“ …What crabs, Uncle Fred? If there were crabs here we would have caught one by now!”
It turns out that Uncle Fred was a worse pitcher than he was a crabber. The fish head missed me by a couple of feet and ended up in the water thereby giving any crabs, that allegedly may have been there, a “freebee.”
Another Uncle Fred temper-toss took place in his dentist’s office, in South Philly. The partial upper plate he had made was ill fitting and painful and my uncle had returned several times for “adjustments.” Now, his dentist was legendary for having a South Philly edge about him. He had no trouble telling patients off, if they did not follow his instructions or pay their bills on time. As Uncle Fred returned for his soon-to-be-farewell visit, he made it very clear to the receptionist that he was not going to pay for the false teeth and that the dentist was a bum. He made this pronouncement loud enough that those in the crowded waiting room heard every word. So did the dentist who emerged from his exam room. The ensuing argument, jaw to jaw, (no pun) was reminiscent of Earl Weaver or Leo Durocher battling with an umpire. Just when it seemed that they would come to blows, the rhubarb ended up with Uncle Fred taking out his choppers and throwing them at the dentist. Once again, Uncle Freddie missed his mark. As he stormed out of the office, Uncle Fred was sure to mention that a bunch of other neighbors openly questioned the dentist’s skills. Just before he slammed the door behind him, my uncle told the dentist that he should go to work at a butcher shop on Ninth Street. This remark got more than a few laughs from the audience. He never paid the bill and he never replaced his teeth. Well-cooked macaroni became his food of choice.
As temperamental as my Uncle Freddie was, he had a heart of gold and was also the softest touch in the family. He’d give you the shirt off his back and just about anything else … except for that upper plate!