I was “chatting” with one of my cousins via Facebook the other day and we came to the conclusion that we are suffering from the main downfall of a large family and getting to the age that we are. It’s getting to the point that it seems we are continually having to say goodbye to a loved one. In the last few years I have lost several beloved family members and last week we lost another one.
Growing up my Uncle Ray was one of my “funnest” uncles. He was unlike any of my other uncles. He played guitar and I remember many times during family gatherings he’d be quietly sitting on the porch or out in the yard strumming on his guitar. I loved sitting nearby listening.
He also drove one of those cool old Volkswagen vans. Not the new ones but the old fashioned ones. He also had a VW Beetle and he was also the owner of the infamous “dune buggy”. He had taken an old (dare I say I think it was also a VW – maybe that’s where my love of VW’s started?) chassis and fitted it with a fiberglass “buggy” that had no top. I remember many, many times bouncing (literally) all over the back end of buggy as we flew up and down the dirt road between my aunt’s house and my grandmothers. It seemed he always ended up being the one to cart us back and forth when the roads were too bad to be passable to a regular car. And I always remember that big grin on his face while we (it seems like he’d have a dozen of us packed in at a time) bounced along that old dirt road over and over and over. We were always begging him to “take us for a ride” and he almost always willingly obliged.
I think the first time I ever really drove any kind of vehicle was probably under his tutelage. He would let us drive his dune buggy and his beetle and the older kids even got to drive his van. He was always patient and kind to us and always had a ready smile and hug.
I’m not sure what his “profession” was but I do know he was always working with wood and eventually that was what he did as a means of making a living. He made the cabinets in the house my parents now live in. He did beautiful cabinetry work.
I remember when we moved back to Virginia after #3 was born we moved into an old house that was built in the early 1900’s and built onto an old existing store and post office that had been moved over to its current location. We lived in the house part and used the “store/post office” part basically for storage. It still had a walk in cooler in there and a couple of large meat coolers with the glass fronts. Someone ended up buying one of the coolers and when they moved it, the floor underneath it was rotted through to the ground and we called my Uncle Ray on a Saturday and I confessed my fear that snakes and other varmints would crawl through the floor and get one of my kids (or me) and he came out the very next day and started working on it. He fixed it and did a great job.
Uncle Ray was one of my few relatives (especially of the uncles by marriage) that didn’t make me feel beneath him. I always felt that a lot of our “relatives” viewed our little branch of the family as the black sheep of the family and therefore looked down their noses at us with disdain. Maybe it was my own insecurities that made me feel that way but I know he was one who never made me feel that way. He made me feel accepted and loved.
I know when we moved back to VA when #3 was very little (only a couple of months old) we ended up going to the same congregation and often ended up in the field ministry together and despite what people may say I could tell by their actions or the look in their eyes that they really didn’t want to be in a car group with a baby so Uncle Ray always “volunteered” to have us in his car group. He always looked out for us and always made me feel welcome whether it was in church, in the field ministry, or at a family gathering. Uncle Ray, I loved you and I will miss you.