Not Just a Picnic

In my first memories of Uncle Charles, he’s home on leave looking sharp in his sailor uniform. Aunt Dee treasures the flag that draped his coffin and the World War II story told at his funeral.

Married for ten years and living in Florida after the war, Aunt Dee and Uncle Charles Maxson welcomed her younger sister Ruth for an extended visit. Aunt Dee had volunteered to make Aunt Ruth’s wedding dress, and fittings were necessary.

The prospective groom, soon to be my Uncle Leo, came down for a couple of days to see Aunt Ruth and meet more of his new family. At the supper table, Uncle Leo and Uncle Charles eyed each other with a wary, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”

Bit by bit, they reconstructed their pasts, discovering that each had served in World War II. By the time they got to the fact that Uncle Leo’s ship had docked in the Pacific for repairs, Uncle Charles exclaimed, “You’re the guy who tracked mud across my newly waxed floor!” Uncle Charles, assigned to the unit doing ship repairs, had been proud of his floor that rivaled the spit shine of his shoes! It was a Baptist funeral so they did not repeat the words Uncle Charles used in his reprimand to the young serviceman with the muddy shoes, but they were evidently words I had never heard him say.

The two men mended their fences and became brothers-for-real as well as brothers-in-law, beginning with a bond they shared of honor and service to their country that overshadowed mud tracks on a newly cleaned floor.

I enjoyed our church’s early Memorial Day celebration that was more than a picnic as we paid honor to those who had served their country in various military branches by calling out their names.  My thoughts were on two men who were part of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” – men who met half a world away, married my mother’s sisters, and became my Uncle Charles and Uncle Leo.