Perhaps traditional, or maybe some combination of Dr. Seuss, Eugene Poddany and Dale Marxen

My Uncle Walter goes waltzing with bears,
It's a most unbearable state of affairs,
Every Saturday night, he creeps down the stairs,
Goes out the back door and goes waltzing with bears.

Others have the first verse as:

Our Uncle Walter's not right in the head
He's been that way all of his life, mother said
Its not that he's violent or falls down the stairs
Its just he goes waltzing, waltzing with bears


He goes wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-waltzing with bears
Raggy bears, baggy bears, shaggy bears, too.
And there's nothing on Earth that Uncle Walter won't do
So he can go waltzing, wa-wa-wa-waltzing,
He can go waltzing, go waltzing with bears-bears.

I went to his room in the middle of the night,
I tiptoed inside and turned on the light,
But to my dismay, he was nowhere in sight,
I'm sure Uncle Walter was waltzing that night.


We bought Uncle Walter a new coat to wear,
But when he comes home it's all covered with hairs,
And lately we've noticed, there's several new tears,
We're sure Uncle Walter's been waltzing with bears.


We told Uncle Walter that he should be good,
And do all the things that we say that he should,
But we know that he'd rather be off in the wood,
And we're afraid that we'll lose him, we'll lose him for good.


We begged and we pleaded with Uncle Walter to stay, (or maybe we pleaded "oh please won't you stay")
And managed to keep him inside for a day,
But the bears all barged in and they took him away,
Now he's dancing with pandas and we don't understand it
But the bears all demand at least one waltz a day.


Some add additional verses:

We asked Uncle Walter just how it feels
To be light on your feet and kick up your heels,
And he said, "we will see what the music reveals
Tonight when the bears teach us polkas and reels."

That night, when the moon rose, we crept down the stairs;
He took me to dance where the bears have their lairs.
We danced in a bear hug with nary a care.
It all feels like flying, there is no denying,
And now my pajamas are covered with hair.

My Aunt Matilda was mad as could be.
"Walter, that rat, never waltzes with me!"
So she took her fur coat and remodeled it so
She can go waltzing, and Walter won't know.

She goes wa-wa-wa wa-wa-wa waltzing with bears.
Raggy bears, shaggy bears, baggy bears too.
And there's nothing on earth Aunt Matilda won't do,
So she can go waltzing, waltzing Matilda,
So she can go waltzing, waltzing with bears.

I snuck out the back door and over the wall.
The shadows were long, and I'm not very tall.
Then a bear came right over and offered his paw:
Now Walter and I are the belles of the ball!

My parents heard this song on the radio when I was in college. We all memorized five of the verses. I love the lilting tune and it is a joyful song about childhood and mysterious adults...

.... until a friend says, "I don't like that song. It's about alcoholism."

Oh. Bummer. Well, yes, it does give a picture of addiction. And don't you like the irony that my family instantly adopted the song, since we were an alcohol family? Another song to raise girls...

I went to his room in the middle of the night
I opened the door and I turned on the light
But to my surprise he was no where in sight
And I'm sure Uncle Walter goes waltzing at night

I have always thought it is a child that is singing. Or a teen. And the adult is gone. No explanation.

He goes wa-wa waltzing with bears
raggy bears, shaggy bears, baggy bears too
And there's nothing on earth that he'd rather do
He loves to go waltzing
Go wa-wa-wa waltzing
He loves to go waltzing, go waltzing with bears

That is what Uncle Walter likes best. Something incomprehensible.

I bought Uncle Walter a new coat to wear
But when he comes home it is covered with hair
And lately I've noticed several new tears
And I'm sure Uncle Walter is waltzing with bears.

The child or teen is buying the coat for Uncle Walter. Children do take on adult roles in addiction households. They try to help. And they are frightened and trying to make the world normal and the adult responsible.

When the addiction is winning, the addict lies. To their family, to themselves, to their doctor, the police, the employer. To everyone. And the family sees signs of the addiction and hope it is not true. Even when they know it is....

We begged and we pleaded with Uncle Walter to stay
We managed to keep him inside for a day
But the bears all barged in and they took him away
Now he's dancing with pandas, I can't understand it
and the bears all demand at least one waltz a day

Uh, treatment and relapse, right? At least now it is "we" so the child is not entirely alone....

I told Uncle Walter that he should be good
And do all the things that he knows that he should
But lately he'd rather be off in the wood
And I fear, oh I fear that I'll lose him for good.

It is a real fear for families of addicts, drugs or alcohol, that they will lose the person for good. And some do.

Last night in the dark we crept down the stairs
We went over there where the bears have their lairs
We danced all night long with nary a care
There is no denying, it feels just like flying
And now my pajamas are covered with hair.

And now the young narrator is inducted into the addiction. I have had young adult patients, still living at home, trying to quit heroin. But the whole family uses. Guess the success rate for them.

What am I doing in this node? Well, the Dr. Seusse song that occasioned the title reminded me of an 'Uncle Walter' of my own. His name was Henri Turcot, he was French-Canadian and had married my father's Aunt Belle, being then my father's uncle, but 'Uncle Henry' was what we all called him, fine distinctions of familial declension being lost on us kids.

If you read Roberta Beeman you might have some idea of my family structure in those days (early fifties) . Mom was small town, ex-church going Baptist, a very strict sect which after marrying my father she moderated to something a little more forgiving. My father's family, by contrast, was...well, they loved to party.

Uncle Henry was like a peacock among the pigeons when he came to visit. He seemed to have been everywhere and done everything, which is like what Oz was to Dorothy when you've grown up in a small rural town like mine. He had been a fashion illustrator, and gave me my first real art lessons. He had been a bodybuilder, which was how as he like to say, he had snared Aunt Belle. ' She took wan look at me, in my bathing suit, an' that was that! Bon!. That was how he started yours truly on the exercise regime that stood me in such good stead when I went out into the world to earn my living.

'Bon' was Uncle Henry's favorite word, applied equally without prejudice to food, wine, song and life in general. This put him into direct conflict with my mother, who disapproved of nearly everything not sanctioned by the church-going community. I still remember the time he took over preparation of dinner one Saturday, and discovered to his horror that there was no wine in the house. Blithely ignoring my mother's appalled protests he gave me five dollars and sent me to...get this...the town liquor store to buy a bottle of red wine. On a Saturday afternoon, no less, when everyone in town would know that there was no mitigating celebration in the offing at our house!

'Make sure you have them wrap it up and don't let anyone see you carrying it,' Mother hissed as I left the house excited by the forbidden nature of my errand. There was nothing else she could do, for Uncle Henry had been a professional Chef as well and his word on Culinary matters was law.

In the days before Television, my sister and brother and I used to gather around the big upright piano and sing together from the big American Songbook. I will remember till the end of my days one evening when Uncle Henry joined us singing 'Via con Dios' , his mellow baritone mingling with our younger voices to produce an effect that still brings a lump to my throat, that seemed to sum up all the yearnings for romance that I could never admit to for fear of public ridicule.

It was not till years later that I saw Uncle Henry again, for after the death of his beloved Belle he had drifted out of the family circle. In the later years of my first marriage I took it into my head to go visit him in the little New England town where he had settled. We drove down in our green second hand Carmen Ghia to find him waiting for us outside the YMCA where he was living, older and balder and diminished by age. Still, a remnant of his former joie de vivre seemed to have survived, for he took one look at the car and shouted, 'Bon! La verte coquerelle!' We took him out for a scrumptious lobster dinner, and the car was 'The Green Cockroach' to the end of its days.

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