Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

(This actually wasn’t going to be my post today. It was going to be about certain Bible verses, which also have a lot to do with the subject matter of this post, but in that post I call my husband and my brother-in-law ‘not such nice’ names, and since it’s Holy Week, I don’t want to go too far, so I’ll wait until after Easter Sunday to post that one.)

Every time I thought of my brother-in-law Donald I thought of that song ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?’ from the movie The Sound of Music. Of course not all the words about a young female novice living in an abbey really apply to a fifty-eight year old man, but the general idea of the song did fit my idea of Donald. And some of the exact words of that song do apply to him, all I have to do is insert he/his for she/her, and Donald for Maria:

I'd like to say a word in his behalf
Donald makes me laugh

How do you solve a problem like Donald?

How do you find a word that means Donald?
A clown!

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell him
Many a thing he ought to understand
But how do you make him stay
And listen to all you say?
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Donald?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

When I'm with him I'm confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
He's as flighty as a feather
He's a darling! He's a demon! He's a lamb!

He'd outpester any pest
Drive a hornet from its nest
He could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl
He is gentle! He is wild!
He's a riddle! He's a child!
He's a headache! He's an angel!
He's a boy!

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Donald?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

I think some of these verses really do him justice. Donald is a nut, a very endearing nut. Donald is a pest, a very delightful pest. Donald is a clown, a very lovable clown. And Donald is a collection of perplexing contradictions. He’s brutal and cutting, yet he’s kind and sweet-natured. He’s naughty and uncivilized, yet he’s good and decent. He’s serious and brooding, yet I never laugh so much at any other time than when I am with Donald. He’s very, very funny. And he’s insightful and sensitive to the feelings of others (while at the same time cutting them to ribbons!). I’m telling you the guy is a wealth of contradictions. I think from all outward appearances you wouldn’t know that Donald is a deeply religious, spiritual man. I admire his devotion to God, and his commitment inspires me.

And Donald is a walking encyclopedia. Both he and my husband can put anyone to shame when playing Trivial Pursuit. How can anyone keep that many facts (mostly useless in my opinion) contained in their heads? They are a font of trivia facts!
And you wouldn’t know that deep down Donald is insecure because Donald is at ease talking to anybody, he will go up to complete strangers and start a conversation with them. Granted, the rest of us might walk away from him because he is completely unpredictable and we are afraid of what might be coming out of his mouth at any given moment, but, for the most part, Donald carries himself as a perfect gentlemen when in the company of strangers.

I used to be very uncomfortable around Donald, because you never knew what was going to come out of his mouth (he has no filter), and you never knew what he was going to choose to pick on (or who he was going to choose to pick on). His humor is juvenile and adolescent (in my opinion Donald is a walking, talking episode of the comedy show The Office), but Donald’s humor is something I’ve come to have a deep appreciation for. It is something that I have actually come to enjoy immensely. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I try hard not to be the object of his amusement, for example, if I know he’s coming over to our house I will ask my husband in the morning while I am getting dressed, “What can I wear today that your brother won’t make fun of?” I ask you, how many other grown women have to ask that about their husband’s brother?!
But Donald has brought me to tears of laughter time and time again, even when I was the object of his humor, especially when I was the object of his humor. He’s very quick-witted and it comes naturally to him. He’s also very sarcastic, but our whole family has that sarcastic humor, so we rarely take offense at the barbs hurled our way, in fact, I think we wear them as a badge of honor. I often wonder what strangers think of us when we are out in public, we must sound so mean to each other.
But no matter how we sound to the outside world, we are a close family, we may have a warped sense of humor (and Donald is king of that warped sense of humor), but we enjoy each other’s company, and we love each other very much.

So, how do you solve a problem like Donald? You don’t. You just learn to live with him and grow to love and appreciate him along with his brand of humor, and soon you realize, there really is no problem to solve at all, the problem was your own.


  1. I can probably think of another other word instead of “clown”, but why go there. It’s strange how your memory works and I know Don loves this story, but I remember as a kid every (probably not “every”, but most) night after dinner, Don, after beating me up, kneeling on top of me and letting spittle drip down on my face. Aah-h, good times. Another fun memory, Mom asking me to wake up Don, I would creep up and gently shake him while whispering, “Don, time to get up.”, when “WHAMMM!” a shot to the jaw. Aah-h, good times.
    But the conundrum that is Don, who do I ask to be my Best Man 36 years ago, and who is my golf partner, and who like a have said to Don many times is my favorite “alive” brother. I could go on and on but I’m getting a little misty

  2. Just make sure you are holding your pants up with a belt when you are around him.


  3. No wonder the poor guy has issues!
    And I'll have to ask him his version of the 'beat after dinner every night' story, and also the 'waking in the morning and giving a sock to the jaw' story before I pass judgment.
    Compassion or Guilt indeed! There really is two sides to every story you know.

  4. Thanks a lot. Now I am going to go to bed tonight with the song "Maria" going through my head! But I enjoyed your blog much!!!

  5. The Commentator aka Katie (Umma's Favorite Child)April 8, 2009 at 12:03 PM

    Uncle Donald = A plethora of useless information!

    So is Paw, but you wouldn't know it from reading his comment! Seriously, "who do I ask to be my Best Man and who is my golf partner and who like a have said..."