Posted by: morrowsl | January 20, 2019

Maggie’s Baby Boy

doc, phoebe, jackie, melvin, uk, rua, raymond, uk, pete, robert e, maggie, jack, erlene, john brown

Uncle Doc is the handsome one squatted down in the front row.

Earlier this month, our family lost the last of my father’s siblings. Uncle Doc, the best of the storytellers and family historian, left us to go surveying the streets of Heaven. I am sure he will discover there are no metes and bounds in the Master’s domain. But first, I hope he spends a few minutes twirling Aunt Evelyn around in the clouds and a few more besting his brothers at Forty-Two.

Daddy came from a big family and most of his siblings stayed in the area where they’d been raised. As a result, we all grew up “spitting distance” from each. Interstate 35S, coming out of Dallas, divides the communities of DeSoto and Lancaster. Three of my uncles settled in Lancaster, as did one of my aunts for a time. Daddy and Uncle Doc chose DeSoto. The remaining siblings were scattered. Some in deep south Texas. Some in Ft. Worth. One in Cedar Hill.

My parents (back row, second and third from the left) with the aunts and uncles at Grandma and Grandpa Ragland’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Twice a year, everyone met at our grandparents’ house near the ghost town of Kimball Bend, where Highway 67 crosses the Brazos River. In its day, Kimball Bend was a river crossing on the Chisholm Trail. To us, it was simply Grandma and Grandpa’s or, more directly, Newman’s Camp.
Every summer, we got together for a family reunion and Grandpa Ragland’s birthday. We parked along the road leading to a hilltop across the little valley from Grandma’s house. Under huge live oaks, we ate and napped and chased each other through the limestone dust. If we were lucky, one of the uncles would take us fishing. Or we’d go down to the river to swim.
Every Christmas Eve, we crammed into the little two-bedroom house Grandpa had built, for gift exchanges and singing carols and making my Grandma’s eyes shine. We were closer than a lot of families, but had no idea not everyone spent this much time together. My cousins were among my first, and closest, friends. And, sometimes, my worst enemies.

Uncle Doc and Aunt Evelyn’s house was maybe a quarter mile from ours. Like Daddy, Uncle Doc had his own business. All the kids went to school together. We had the same teachers and friends in the same groups. Every October, Mom and Aunt Evelyn took us to the State Fair of Texas.

state fair - 1965 - belinda, cindy, sheree, judy, greg
I grew up thinking my Aunt Evelyn’s tuna salad was the best in all the land. And fearing the hairbrush she kept in the glove box of her car!
For as much time as I spent in his house, I knew very little of my Uncle Doc because, also like his brother, he worked some long hours keeping a roof over his family’s head. I was an adult before I fully appreciated his unique spot in our family and his incredible memory for the details of his life at the tail end of a life-long love affair.
After we’d lost my grandparents, but while most of their children were still alive, we resurrected the tradition of our summer family reunion.  The aunts would cook amazing food.  The uncles would make sure somebody brought a table for dominoes. I’ve never been exactly sure where my own joy resided, but I suspect it was somewhere between Aunt Evelyn’s strawberry cake and standing behind my Daddy while he “played a round.”

1997 Domino game Uncle Pete, Uncle Doc (back to camera), Uncle Kent, and Uncle James.

the boys

L to R: Raymond, Jack, Doc, James, Pete, Paul

As time would have it, we started losing my uncles shortly after Daddy died. I don’t think I ever considered that a mess of siblings born within years of each other would also leave in the same fashion. I do find it amazing that, in spite of going to war, none of them died in battle. And, with the exception of two aunts, they all lived well into old age.
Losing the others only made Uncle Doc, and his memories, even more precious.

Sister and I spent an afternoon with Uncle Doc a week or so before he died.  He was in a story-telling mood and kept us laughing with all the antics of his brothers and sisters, their friends, and the time they spent together. Watching him, I realized that he looked more like Daddy than any of the other brothers had. They laughed in a similar fashion. They would both lift their eyebrows when trying to convince you that what you were hearing was the absolute truth. They both could talk almost non-stop, piling tale upon tale and creating a scene that became a living thing inside my head.

I will miss this man so much! He takes full chapters of my own history with him.

 


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