It’s the Rare person who has Relatives who are all shining examples of the greatness of humanity.
In my Youth, I had so many relatives around me that I believed such constant appearances of mine at our home was the norm for everyone.
Eventually, I learned that I was living a life of exception, and that the majority of the other families I knew of had what I would now call a smaller “clan” to observe and learn from.
So, my feeling that my family was exceptionally large was mostly because we were exceptional.
You see, both my Mother and my Father had so many siblings, who themselves married and had children over that post-war decade or so that my “clan” gave me so many variations in personality and personal philosophies to watch and learn from.
One of the first things you would notice about my family was that on any Sunday, and often any Saturday, there would be four, five, or maybe more of my relatives visiting us.
Sometimes it might be an Uncle or an Aunt who would just stop by to get Mom’s or Dad’s help dealing with something that required their help or often just a little advice.
Other times it was just a casual stopover at our place to socialize. This was most common with the men. Dadf had an “open door, cold beer” policy whenever any of them stopped by. Dad might be in the middle of something he was working on in his shop, but regardless of who stopped by, the work stopped and he would hand the other person a beer and thy would walk out ext to the pond and sit and talk.
My relatives, especially the uncles and aunts varied so much in what they did during the war and how it affected them that I could write a book on their experiences. I have often called myself a Storyteller over my lifetime and looking back, this was most likely because I would sit quietly and listened to them tell so many stories of their experiences.
Their stories covered the spectrum of wartime realities and experiences, I guess; some were scary, some were heart breaking, some made you cry and some made you laugh until tears rolled from your eyes. All were exceptional to me and I carry them still, in my heart.
I had a relative who was extremely religious before the war and you couldn’t drag him into a church, any church, when he came home. And I had relatives who could curse a blue streak at a moment’s notice if provoked who came back demanding that no one say a curse word in front of him.
I had relatives who would give you the shirt off of their backs and I had one relative who would steal anything that wasn’t tied down when he visited.
I had relatives who served in every branch of the service; on a Navy Cruiser, on a Sub-Chaser out of San Diego (my Dad), My favorite uncle was in the Marine corp and landed on two Pacific islands. They found him sitting in a bomb crater talking to his friend. His friend was sitting beside him, but his head was missing.
As I said, these relatives of mine were working class people who had seen and shared things most of us cannot imagine, and I grew up surrounded by them, and listening to them. And all of these war hardened men and women were just trying to get or hold a job, raise a family and pretend they didn’t know what they knew; hadn’t seen what they had seen, hadn’t done what they had done.
That’s where I grew up; with these relatives of mine.
But Sundays? Mom cooked on Sunday. She always got up early, cooked most of the food and then she went to church; often dragging myself and my siblings along with her. Yeah, I was raised going to church; every Sunday morning and sometimes on Sunday evening and even on Wednesdays.
There were no gourmet dishes on Mom’s table, it was always simple fare.
By 1:00pm every sunday, there would always be; fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, sliced tomatoes on a bed of lettuce and canned biscuits; along with fresh milk, Buttermilk )(dad’s favorite) and sweet tea for everyone else. The meal was always the same and if anyone was visiting at that time of the day they were always welcome to eat with us. Always!
But I grew up! I didn’t watch it happen, it just did. I got taller, I graduated High School and i went into the Navy myself. There was no master plan, I did what my dad did and I went away for a few years. i was assigned to an aircraft carrier and i traveled the world, chasing women of every color, fighting and gambling with men of many different nationalities, and I stared at so many of mankind’s monuments to itself. I didn’t know ti was happening, but I grew up over those years.
The strange and to me sad thing that happened though was that all of my relatives grew older. They had jobs when I left home and when I came back, they had careers. Overall, I can say that they had fought their demons and came out victorious, for the most part. And their perspective of me? I was no longer the kid who would sit for hours and listen to them tell their war stories; I was now a grown man who it seemed at time were embarrassed to tell a story to. They ahd built their own walls and the lived behind them in safety.
Anyway, these are just a couple of my best memories of a few of my relatives. They were strong honest people who always treated me as if there was something special about me and I’ll always be grateful to them for that.
Now, after almost three-quarters of a century, living my life, with my wife by my side, these great and unique people are all gone. All I have left of these great relatives of mine are my; funny, insane, loving, hateful, crazy, sad, wonderful memories.
By Don Bobbitt