The Eyeball

C.K. Unger, or Cornelius K. Unger (no one knows what the K stands for) is my Great-Grandfather on my Father’s Father’s side. He had a glass eye and would often use it to scare his Grandchildren and his Great-Grandchildren into submission.

Cornelius’ Great-Grandchildren always sat at the kid’s table, in the kitchen. We were left to fend for ourselves, while the adults sat away from us in the formal dining room. Chaos was the norm as we fought over buttered buns and the last cabbage roll. There was never a dull moment to be sure.

The adults would continually shush us from the dining room, and if there was a problem one of them would be sent in to sort it out. They would give us a warning, and then eventually a scolding, and return to the dining room.

And it was meant to be a joke, I’m sure, when Cornelius was sent into the kitchen to settle down the children. He pulled his glass eyeball from the socket and placed it on top of the fridge with the iris facing us. He warned us all that we better behave, as he would be watching us. He chuckled as he returned to the other room, but I remember us being terribly frightened of that eyeball. So, of course we would all be on our best behaviour.

It might be frowned upon, in this day and age to use an eyeball or any sort of scare tactic to get children to behave, but things were very different in the 1980s.

Cornelius lost his eye on November 13, no one is sure of the year, but my Father is sure of the date, which happens to be his birthday. Apparently Cornelius was cutting up firewood with a table saw, with no guardrail or protective equipment, and a rock hit the saw while he was cutting. A splinter came off and flew into his eye.

I have a vague recollection of his other physical features. He was a slight man, not much taller than his Great-Grandchildren, and he wore glasses. I remember him speaking a dialect of German no one understood, and chuckling to himself.

The fact that he had lost his eye never seemed to bother him, and he didn’t seem bitter for the loss. It actually seemed as though he enjoyed having a prop for his comedy. He would remove his eyeball regularly for entertainment purposes. He would roll it across the floor just to get a reaction. It was what he was known for.

Personally, I would like to be known for my good heart, good hair, good skin, good personality, or my lentil soup recipe. Cornelius was known for removing a part from his face.

We all have our talents I suppose.

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