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Kip Van Cruger
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My cousin, Kip Van Cruger worked at Handy Andy’s Hardware store just like his father, Rip. Rip had
passed away five years ago, two years after he woke up from his forty year odyssey, suffering from “semi-terminal narcodroposis.”
My uncle Rip was in his 19th year working at Handy Andy’s where he was placing new merchandise on an
upper shelf in the back store room when a large ball peen hammer slipped off the top shelf, conking him on the top of the head, knocking
him out, causing him to fall backwards, hitting the back of his head on the counter holding two large tubs of Plumber’s Putty.
Andy Bilboa, owner of the store, heard the commotion and immediately ran to the back room and found Uncle Rip unconscious, laying
amidst the pick axes and garden hoes.
And that was the beginning of Uncle Rip Van Cruger’s 40-year confinement with what was diagnosed
as “semi-terminal narcodroposis.”
Uncle Rip spent two months in the hospital and another two months
in a rehabilitation clinic. The doctors were mystified, but Uncle Rip continued to sleep, which he did for the next forty years. Then,
as suddenly as the ball peen hammer had fallen and removed his consciousness, Uncle Rip awakened. It was 2005 and he had been sleeping
for forty years. He blinked for the better part of an afternoon, stretched his arms wide and asked his wife, my Aunt Emily, for a
big glass of Canada Dry. He was now an old man of eighty seven years. Forty years had passed and Uncle Rip had missed everything that
had happened during the past four decades.
Walking on unsteady legs, Uncle Rip, with the aid of his
faithful Emily, headed to the living room of their home. He pulled up short when he saw the fifty inch Panasonic television set in
the corner of the room. “What the hell is that?” Emily told him, “It’s our television set, Rip. She turned the set on and Regis Philbin’s
face came on, filling the screen. ”Damn,” Rip said, “His head is bigger than mine.”
Uncle Rip spent
the remaining days of his life catching up on what had transpired during his forty year sleep. Uncle Rip died at age eighty nine,
choking to death while eating a chili dog at his favorite 7-11 store up the street.
Now, Rip’s son, my cousin, Kip Van Cruger was
working at Andy Bilboa’s hardware store, just like his father. Kip lived at home, with his mother, Emily. Kip was now forty six years
old, celebrating his ninth year working for Andy Bilboa.
One day, in the middle of November, just before
the Thanksgiving holiday, Kip was straightening up in the gardening section of the store. He aligned the assortment of shovels and
pick axes. Dusted the five pound bags of grass seed. Checked the lawn mower spark plugs and neatly re-stacked the large sacks of chemical
Kip heard Andy call him. “Kip, I need you up front.” Kip, turned quickly just as his left
foot stepped flatly and heavily on the tines of a garden rake. The rake sprang forward, the top of the handle smacking Kip in the
center of his forehead. Kip went down in a lump. Andy, hearing the resounding thud of the rake handle on Kip’s head, ran to him.
Kip had immediately lost consciousness. He fell between the bags of Scott’s chemical fertilizer and a new display of Weed Wackers.
Andy, held Kip’s head in his hands and kept repeating, “No, no, not again, not another Van Cruger.
No, no, no.”
The ambulance took Kip to the hospital, where he remained for two weeks. The resident
neurologist diagnosed Kip with the same malady that had stricken Kip’s father. Oddly, strangely, preternaturally, Kip was suffering
In a strange twist of fate, my uncle Rip and now my cousin Kip both suffered
from the rare disease – “narcodroposis.”
For nineteen years cousin Kip lay at home, asleep, unaware
of anything in the world outside his brain. His mother, Emily, took care of him just as she did for his father,
her husband, Rip.
Then, suddenly and without any notice, Kip awoke from his nineteen year sleep, lifted
his head from the pillow and said, “Mom, I’m hungry, what’s to eat?”
It took two weeks of rehabilitation
for Kip to learn to walk again, but he was determined to regain his strength and capture the rest of his life.
Nineteen years has passed since 1990 when Kip had stepped on the rake in Handy Andy’s Hardware store and caused the oak handle to
slam into his forehead, rattling his brain and delivering him to a nineteen year nap.
since he was outside his mother’s house. An auto drove by. Kip turned to his mother and said, “What’s that, it’s enormous.”
“That’s an SUV, Kip. Like a giant car.”
Kip spent the next few days
watching television and reading newspapers and magazines saved by his mother during his nineteen year sleep. He wanted to catch up
on the mysteries of what had transpired as he slept.
He slowly found out the history of what the world
had seen that he had missed.
One day Emily sat down with Kip and said, “Kip, I know you must have many
questions about the nineteen years you were in your bed, asleep. Would you like me to tell you about some of the things that occurred
during those nineteen years?”
“I guess I should start with
the day of September 11, 2001. There was an attack on America on that day. Two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, one
flew into the Pentagon and another crashed in Pennsylvania. Almost three thousand Americans died.”
“Who did it?”
“Nineteen men were involved. Most came from Saudi Arabia. They were led by a man named
bin Laden, head of a group called Al Qaeda.”
“What did we do after the attacks?”
“President Bush had our armed forces attack Iraq and Afghanistan. There is still killing going on in both countries.”
“So many other things have happened, Kip. I’ll tell you about some of them.”
“Chrysler went broke.
So did General Motors. Ford is hanging on.”
“Japanese cars are more popular than American
made ones. Lehman Brothers went broke and folded. The government bailed out Goldman Sachs, AIG Insurance and a few banks or they would
have collapsed. The former governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton was elected president in 1993. George W. Bush was elected in 2001 and
a black man, Barack Obama, was elected in 2009.
“A few years ago cellular phones were perfected. Now
almost everyone has one. Just about everyone you see will be carrying one.”
“Same with computers. People
now spend more time on their computers than watching television.”
“A young girl named Brittany Spears
became famous for showing her body and acting like a fool.”
“A kind of music called Rap,
Hip Hop, and Gangsta rap got popular when you slept. People with names like, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Ludacris, Wyclef Jean and Nellie got
famous and became millionaires. I don’t understand it because all they did was yell out dirty words and threats, but lots of young
people liked them.”
“Athletes like Alex Rodriquez were paid 25 million dollars a year. A golfer named
Tiger Woods made even more than that.”
“A couple named Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were big movie
“WalMart and Target stores grew and took over great chunks of the market as stores like Sears
and K-Mart fell behind.”
“Lots of other things happened, Kip. Kids by the millions used illegal drugs.
It’s so difficult to be a kid nowadays. Neighborhoods aren’t friendly. Both parents have to work. Everything is going by so quickly.
Kids have to grow up so fast today. They have so little time to be kids and just play.”
at his mother and told her, “Thanks, mom. I guess I missed a lot during the last nineteen years. Some of the things you told me about
I wish I had been awake to see them. Lots of other things I don’t think I missed much at all. Tell me more about that Brittany Spears.”