BOB'S YOUR UNCLE, FANNIE'S YOUR AUNT
Several years ago I had one of those slightly spooky truth-is-stranger-than-fiction experiences that I often think was some kind of sign from God.
I was sailing down in the BVI with my wonderful English friends Jon and Diana and having a high old time catching up with them after a few years of everyone doing their own thing. As often happens when the Yanks and the Brits get together, we started sharing colloquialisms with each other. I introduced them to “discombobulated” among others, and they offered up a couple of classics, including “Kafuffle” and my now all-time favorite “Bob’s Your Uncle, Fannie’s Your Aunt”. If you haven’t ever heard this last phrase, roughly translated it means, “Everything is great / it’s all smooth sailing from here / life is good.”
As we were discussing this delightful new saying I suddenly realized something amazing. I said “Hey, wait a minute! I actually had a great-uncle Bob and he was married to my great-aunt Fannie!” No kidding, Uncle Bob and Fannie were married for a million years and they were two of my most favorite relatives. Uncle Bob was a big-time lawyer in the small Central Texas town where my mother grew up and Fannie was the original Flapper / Southern Belle who taught all of us kids to swim at the local country club pool. Their house was always party central and they were about as eccentric as you can get. Uncle Bob chain-smoked big Cuban cigars and wore a wide-brimmed Panama hat and Fannie loved really good bourbon and never served dinner before 11 pm.
So the entire week every time something good happened on the boat like favorable winds, an empty mooring buoy or the discovery of a previously unknown beach bar, someone would shout out “Bob’s your uncle, Fannie’s your aunt!” and we would all get giddy and I would have to remind everyone again about this amazing coincidence. I might also add here that at the time Uncle Bob had gone on to his reward but Fannie was still very much alive, albeit much older and not in great health.
At the end of that lovely week down in the islands with my wonderful friends we reluctantly parted company and they flew back to Blighty and I to the States. As I walked in the door of my house I saw that the answer phone light was flashing (this was before the advent of the ubiquitous cell phone) so I hit the replay button as I was putting down my bags. The very first message was from my late mother relating the very sad news that Fannie had passed away while I was gone and they had already had her service. So not only did I not get to say goodbye and have closure, but I also had that end-of-an-era sort of feeling. You know, like when something that has remained constant in your life suddenly vanishes? You just think those people will be around forever. But then I started thinking about how the entire time I was lolling about on my friend’s boat down in the Caribbean Fannie and Uncle Bob had been there with us, too. Their quirky, eccentric selves had permeated every part of our trip in such an endearing, life-affirming way. What had seemed at the time as pure coincidence now spoke to me differently. I think it was Fannie’s way of saying goodbye as only someone who loved life, her family and really good single malt bourbon could. The fact that I had spent the first few days smoking cigars (and getting violently ill) and telling funny stories about all the cousins piling into Fannie’s ancient Corvair to go swimming suddenly took on a deeper meaning. How better to celebrate the lives of two figures so firmly entrenched in my childhood than to share my memories of Uncle Bob and Fannie with some of my closest pals?
I still go sailing every year with Jon and Diana and we still shout out “Bob’s your uncle, Fannie’s your aunt!” Because that’s what you say when life is good.