My Uncle Ralph was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis over 40 years ago. He retired from preaching and slowly, his health began to deteriorate. By the time he moved in with my family, after the death of my Aunt Bunny, my mother’s twin sister, in 1990, he couldn’t walk and was mostly confined to a recliner where he pored over his massive baseball card collection, watched any sport that happened to be on TV, and became my friend. When Aunt Bunny died he probably never thought he’d be reunited with her sooner rather than later. He probably never expected to live more than 20 years after that. I’m glad he did, though I neglected to visit him in the last years of his life. My loss. I’ll be speaking at his funeral on Wednesday and count it an honor. I’m reposting this article he wrote for my blog back in 2009 in his memory. We will miss him here, but I can only imagine how happy he is now to be reunited in Heaven with my Aunt Bunny who took care of him for so many years. Can’t wait to see them both again.
My mom and dad
My Aunt Bunny and Uncle Ralph
By Ralph Smith
(Commonly known as Uncle Ralph)
It was 1949. Harry Truman was in the White House, the Braves were in Boston, and I was in the U. S. Air Force. I had never heard of Elvis, or Viet Nam, or the Internet. I had never seen a television, a mini-skirt, or a cell-phone. Every jukebox was playing “The Lovesick Blues” by a guy named Hank Williams. I’d never heard of him before leaving for Germany a year earlier. Little did I know that I was coming to his home town, and arriving on his birthday, September 17.
I was sent to Maxwell Field to be re-assigned to some other base. I arrived on Saturday and went to church on Sunday, where I met a pair of pretty twin sisters, Those Twins have been discussed previously on this blog, and if you’re wondering why I’m telling all this, I’ll give you a clue, as Hank would say. If this story hadn’t happened pretty much as it did happen, many of the people reading this blog wouldn’t be here. Come to think of it, this blog wouldn’t be here! So pay attention!
There were a lot of men coming through the relocation center at Maxwell at that time, for various reasons, and the regular staff was snowed under. Hundreds of men were standing in line every day, and it was time consuming work. When the sergeant in charge learned that I was a Clerk-Typist, I “volunteered” to help out. If you served in the Military, you know how you volunteer. In this case, I didn’t mind a bit, because I wanted to see those Twins again.
Those Twins were Dorothy and Doris Barber, but they were known as Dot and Bunny. They were the youngest of fifteen children, and they were the only unmarried ones remaining. That, by the way, was the most amazing family I ever knew, but that’s another story. Because they were the youngest, their Mother was very protective, and insisted that they only double-date. Their Father had died the year before, and their mother was boss. That meant, if I wished to date Bunny, I must bring a buddy for Dot. That was no problem, except for Dot, who didn’t care to date just any guy. I did the best I could but the talent pool was limited.
Then I met Jim, who was returning from Panama. He was tall, and good looking, and almost as cool as I was. He was also a Clerk-Typist, and he volunteered, just as I had, to work at a desk beside me. I persuaded him to double-date. He liked it. We dated the twins, and we became buddies. We were young and foolish. We spent money like congress. We bought a car together. We moved into a vacant room in the transient barracks without permission. That room was for men with four or more stripes. Jim had two and I had two……thar’s four. We talked a lot about all kinds of things. Once, he told me that if he ever had a son, he’d name him Thad. I told him that I had been a Chaplain’s Assistant, and that Chaplain’s name was Thad Son. I kid you not!
We worked hard in the office, sometimes late at night. Our friendship grew stronger. We chased the twins. Jim went to Pensacola with me to visit my family. I went with him to Fayette to visit his. True love didn’t run smooth. We dated other girls, and the Twins dated other guys. I was miseraabe. By this time, I was in love. I thought Bunny was the prettiest girl I ever knew. That was sixty years ago. My opinion has not changed.
We bought a newer car, Through circumstance you don’t want to know, we lost it. Neither of us blamed the other. We had fun together, we made mistakes together. We rode the bus together. We chased the Twins together.
The work we were doing slowed down, and Jim and I were no longer needed there, so we were transferred to other squadrons on Maxwell. The trouble was that we were separated now. We worked and slept in different buildings. Each of us made new buddies That often happened in the Military, and fellows usually just moved on to new relationships. In this case however, a bond had been formed. Jim and I were now more than buddies; we were friends. There was also that common mission…….we were chasing the Twins.
We stayed at Maxwell until we were discharged. We got jobs and Bunny and I were married. Three weeks later, Dot and Jim were married. I was not mature enough for marriage, but nobody could have told me that. I thought I was ten feet tall and bullet-proof. There was no doubt in my mind that I would get a job and climb the ladder of success. Yeah! Jim probably thought just as I did, but I won’t speak for him.
We had chased the Twins, as Jim loves to say, until they caught us. In love stories and fairy tales, when boy finally wins girl, that’s the end, but in real life, it’s only…..THE BEGINNING.