After he returned home he had become an alcoholic. We didn't see him much because he lived several states away from us. Mama was always worried about him because he had 'friends' who came around every month when his veteran's check came in the mail. They drank together until the money ran out and he was alone again.
When I was eight years old, we went to see him in a VA hospital in Oklahoma. He had Cirrhosis of the liver. I stayed in the waiting room while Mama visited him. I didn't know what to think about the situation.
We brought him home to live with us. I had never seen anyone with that tint of yellow on their skin and eyes. His stomach was huge although his whole frame was skinny. Weakness confined him to an easy chair in the living room. I was more than a little afraid of him.
One day, Mama went to the store and had me stay with Uncle Ray. I thought I was his babysitter. It made me feel important. While we were sitting together, he began to talk to me in his slow, sweet, Oklahoma accented voice.
I was amazed that an adult who wasn't Mama or Daddy was talking to me. He asked me how I liked school. I didn't know that anybody cared about that. He asked if I liked fishing. I had been fishing once before, but nobody asked if I had liked it or not.
This adult was different than any I had ever met. He had this old lunchbox that looked like a barn. He had me get it and bring it to him. He told me about the different fish hooks and lures in it. I liked the fact that his tackle box was whimsical. That made him more magical than I had thought he was.
He cared that I knew about fishing. Although he was never well enough to take me, I felt that we had gone and that I would be the best fisherman that ever was. (No, I'm not, but I was a dreamer back then.) I loved that man and he loved me back. He didn't have to. I was a jumpy little girl who made him nervous at times when I jumped from one bare spot on the carpet to the next on my way back and forth to the refrigerator to get a snack, but he loved me.
On the day before my tenth birthday, I went to see him at the Kingle Hospital in Perryton. He was dying, but he said, "You are going to have two numbers in your age tomorrow! That is exciting..." He made me feel very important when he said that. He also told me that he loved me.
The day after my tenth birthday, we took him to Salida,Colorado for his funeral. I had never knew anyone who had died before. Mama's mother and daddy had passed away before I was born and Daddy's mama and daddy passed away by the time I was five. I just couldn't believe that Uncle Ray was gone.
It was during this time that I had one of the sweetest Sunday School teachers who ever breathed, Lillian Bauman. Her love for the Savior glowed from her face and I adored her. She was young and beautiful. I was amazed by her curly eyelashes.
Also, the youth group of our church was very active. I was too young to be a part of all of that, but I adored them all. Many of them played instruments during song service. (That's what we called Worship service back then.) We had accordian, organ, horns, guitars, piano, and much more all played by the youth.
The teen who played the accordian was Barbara Brandt. She was my hero. She didn't know it, but she was. It was the days of ratted hair and 'the bubble' hairdo. She and the other teens pulled that look off perfectly. She sang a song at church that helped me through the loss of Uncle Ray. It was, "How Big is God?" by Stuart Hamlin (?)
When I got home from church, I'd sing it as best as I could to the top of my voice. Mama must have loved the song as well because he bought the sheet music for it. I learned to play it on the piano. It gave me much comfort.
I have reconnected with Sister Lillian and Barbara Brandt on Facebook. They are still influencing me with the consistancy of their lives. I know I can make it!!! Barbara didn't know that her song she was singing at church would help a ten year old want to live again even though her dear Uncle Ray was gone. Sister Lillian was my pattern for teaching Sunday School to little kids. They are precious, precious people.
Don't think people don't notice the things you do. I learned from Uncle Ray and kids are people, too. I learned from Barbara that teens can do things for the Lord and bring comfort without even knowing it. I learned from Sister Lillian that a Sunday School teacher is a very influencial person, so don't take teaching a class of Primary Students lightly. God bless you all.