I'm not sure how he is related to me; he is my mother's first cousin, so perhaps he is my second cousin? Once we start darting off the main trunk of the family tree, I get lost quite quickly.
Bob is his name, and he is in his early 70s and lives in a suburb of Chicago.
This is a cautionary tale: Don't be like Bob.
Bob is very frugal, and there is nothing wrong with that; I too am extremely frugal. My mother has other more non-flattering terms for my spending habits, but I don't care to share those with mixed company. However, no one is as frugal as Bob.
Bob loves canned goods. At one of the grocery stores, which has since gone out of business, they used to have dented and dinged canned goods on clearance. He would buy them in the case loads; the problem is there was some sort of program with soup can labels (this was before my time, so not sure what it entailed), and all these cans are now naked. Dilapidated tin cans line his shelves, and every choice is a gamble. Oh, did I fail to mention that most of these canned goods come from the 1970s?
He cracks open a can of pork and beans, the "pork" is a greyish sort of white, the beans look like little spotted cow jelly beans with white and black spots--he doesn't care. Tosses them in a bowl, throws them in the microwave, and then he wonders why he has an upset stomach three hours later.
But, he'll defend those pork and beans to the death: "Don't care how they look; they still have good flavor!"
The family tries to intervene, but he gets hostile to the point of trying to hit us with his cane--but over time large amounts of those canned goods have disappeared, along with the hot dogs he had in the freezer from the Nixon administration.
His frugal means have also allowed him to lose touch with reality. His clothing and entertainment needs are fulfilled only via garage sale. Probably about a decade ago, my mother was visiting and hitting the garage sale circut with him. He found a VHS tape of Peter, Paul, and Mary for 25 cents. He scarfed it up and decided that Mary was the prettiest young thing he has ever set his eyes on--My mother tried to explain that she was no longer a waif of a blonde singing mezzo-soprano, but had morphed into a larger woman who sang baritone due to way too many cigarettes and probably other herbal supplements. To this day, he digs through the paper to see if that "nice band with that nice looking girl" will be making an appearance in Chicago any time soon (despite Mary being dead...)
But, the best example of his frugality going astray comes from this last summer. It will go down in the family history books for centuries. Guranteed.
My mother called me in hysterics to tell me that Bob had almost been arrested. I figured he was trying to take loaves of bread out of the discount bakery dumpster again and had gotten caught, but this turned out to be much better.
Bob loves birds. He stares out his back window to his little plot of Earth and watches the finches and sparrows and cardinals come swooping down to eat bird seed and take baths in his plastic bird bath (which he plucked off the curb of someone trying to throw it away).
The police officers (two of them, no less) knocked on the door, stern faced, ready for a throw down. I can only imagine what they thought of the 70 year old man with a cane answering the door. Bob was not going to give them any trouble--well, then again, they hadn't met his cane like the rest of us had while trying to steal canned goods out of the cupboards.
The police officers asked if Bob would take them to the back yard, which he did, his heart probably racing more than when he found a $20 bill on the sidewalk outside his house.
Bob's younger sister lives across the street, and she came running across to see what was going on. She found the police officers in the back yard with Bob looking very confused.
It didn't take very long for her to register what was happening, and she exclaimed: "Dear Lord, Robert, what are you doing growing pot in your backyard?!"
Come to find out, the generic bird seed he had bought from god knows where in god knows what decade had marijuana seeds in it, and his backyard was starting to be overgrown in weed--literally.
Garbage bags were produced and the plants were cut away and pulled, and his sister gave all the policeman every bit of bird seed with a simple command: "Do whatever you want with this; we're going to buy new stuff!"
...And Bob's eyes grew large with protest.
The moral of the story: Don't be like Bob-- or you may be arrested for growing drugs in your backyard.