BATON ROUGE, LA—Announcing his controversial return to family life, local resident Uncle Greg told reporters Monday he will attempt to make his long-awaited comeback during a family barbecue in a relative's backyard next month.
Once a mainstay of holiday get-togethers, the 39-year-old uncle has long been written off by those who said he could never recover from a decade of strained relationships, social gaffes, and severed familial connections.
"It's official—I'm back," said Uncle Greg, outlining plans to attend his first major family function in nearly three years. "All my hard work the past few months has been leading up to this: holding down a job, easing up on the booze a bit, getting myself a decent haircut. And at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, all the naysayers will be silenced when they see the new Uncle Greg in top form."
According to the three-time college dropout, the upcoming barbecue is ideal for staging his return, partly because it will take place on friendly turf, with Cousin Dan, one of the few relations who's stood by him through every slump, serving as host. The gathering is also expected to be pretty low-key, since it falls during a lull in the family's summertime schedule, a month after the big reunion on July 4 but weeks before the special Labor Day celebration planned for Grandpa Jim and Grandma Joan's 60th anniversary.
"Obviously, I'd be stupid to try and pull this off during a First Communion or a Thanksgiving dinner or something," Uncle Greg said. "But I figure at Dan's place I can just walk in, ask him if he needs any help with the grill, and, when he says no, stake out a neutral spot for myself at one of the picnic tables."
"Plus, Shelley and Rod will be out of town," he continued. "So that should be a big help."
Though he wouldn't disclose his entire strategy, Greg did reveal that he plans to drink only one or two beers tops, avoid the topic of politics altogether, and smile and remain polite to Cheryl, no matter "how big of a bitch" she might be.
While his performance the past few years has been spotty, Uncle Greg enjoyed a long stint of popularity during his mid-20s, when his practice of sitting at the kids' table and teaching Dave and Linda's dog Frisky to drink Pepsi earned him the title of "favorite uncle."
Sources agree that Uncle Greg peaked in 1999, and that a long string of ugly incidents since then—including Aunt Margaret's birthday party, during which he made an unfortunate joke about her spinsterhood, and the picnic at the lake to which he brought his best friend Bobby, who kept hitting on a 16-year-old niece—has all but cemented his role as the family's black sheep.
"He's really giving it his all," said Uncle Greg's wife, Jeanie, who believes this comeback will be a success despite the failure of a similar attempt a few Thanksgivings ago. "This time he's serious. And I can tell he's trying extra hard because he asked me to buy him a new T-shirt for the occasion, and to make a pan of my chocolate-chip bread pudding so he can walk in carrying something."
Added Jeanie, "He even told me he wasn't going to challenge anyone to an arm- wrestling match the whole time."
Many relatives remain skeptical of Uncle Greg's ability to recapture his former glory.Sister-in-Law Cheryl went so far as to doubt the sincerity of the entire project.
"What is this, comeback No. 7?" Cheryl said. "Greg tries to pull this shit whenever he needs money and realizes no one is going to give him any if he keeps acting like an ass. His best bet is to make a fresh start with the nieces and nephews who are too young to remember the guy who ruined Christmas with a goddamn DWI. Twice."
Uncle Greg told reporters he preferred to keep a positive outlook, because "this is family and you have to let bygones be bygones, even though [Brother-in-Law] Michael will probably never let you dog-sit again."
Greg also confirmed he was memorizing the names of those who weren't born the last time he attended a family gathering, or "who packed on a shit-ton of weight recently like Aunt Roberta."
"This family needs me and I'm going to make them realize that once and for all," Uncle Greg said. "This barbecue is going to change everything."
"Especially after I tell Mom and Dad about crashing their truck over the weekend," he added.