Born October 11, 1909, Died March 22, 1967
Served World War II, PFC 1870 SVC CMD Unit
The above inscription I took notice of upon my Uncle LuVerneís military gravestone, on his 100th birthday. It is hard to imagine that if he had lived my uncle would be a centenarian.
As I stood grieving this man, who I wish I had known better and loved more, I recalled a day many years before when my Mama and I spent a quiet day together. We were going through photos, and she told me stories from the past.
There is only one story, one about my Uncle LuVerne that I remember from that day that sticks in my mind. I was in my thirties at the time, and was before I knew I was loved by him. My Uncle was always a source of shame for me in his dirty clothes, with his dirty body, and his lowly status. He never held much of a job. I often heard my Mama say that he had never been the same since serving in World War II. I also heard how when he met my Aunt Hazel, and cousin, Jim, they lived in the local childrenís home.
I was young, perhaps in my first decade of life, when I witnessed his bankruptcy. All his and Aunt Hazelís belongings spread out on the lawn being auctioned off. I canít remember my cousin, Jim, being there, but most likely he was. I wonder why I didnít connect to Jimís pain and shame.
Anyway, my Mama told me, many years too late, how my Uncle LuVerne picked Mama and me up at the hospital, after my birth, for my trip to my home to meet the rest of my family. My Daddy was on the road truck driving. Waiting at home for me was my four year old sister Linda and my brother, Roger, three years. The unexpected news was how proud Uncle LuVerne was of me. My Mama told me that one would have thought I belonged to him. Somehow I never visualized such a scene. As a young person I would have been mortified hearing this.
As the adult I was when told, I felt a sense of loss of not knowing while Uncle LuVerne (LuVerne was his preferred name over Ralph) was still living. I would have liked to have told him how it makes me feel good that he was there as my Dadís proxy to take me to my home. And I would have liked to thank him for loving me. I would have wanted to thank him for serving in the war, and I would have loved him more, and told him I understood the emotional pain he carried. Oh how, I wish I had known!
Even though I knew too late for him, I am happy to learn I had been a source of joy for Uncle LuVerne, when I was born, and to have been loved by him. It was only after his death, that I found out his birthday was October 11, and mine being October 10. I also have recently noted on his grave stone that he died on March 22, my sister Lindaís birthday. This might not interest many, but I have always found coincidences of plays on dates very fascinating, especially when it involves those who have been a part of my life. They are all pieces of a puzzle that makes up my life.
As I write this I think of the blessing that this Uncle was to me. I am filled with shame for not having appreciated him. He only lived 57 of the 100 years since his birth, yet he has left a legacy for me and a valuable lesson learned.
I look at people differently since I learned the truth about my Uncle. I look beyond their appearances on the outside. With every person, there is a story to tell. Sometimes it is like finding a jewel or gold, if I just have the right heart.
I have also learned that it doesnít have to take 100 years for a person to leave a legacy of love and honor to an undeserving spoiled niece like me.
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