Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Uncle Harold

My grandmas last living sibling died last week, on April 14.  I'm saddened to say that I don't remember ever meeting him, but I do remember looking at pictures of him in all of the photo albums my grandma has compiled over the years.

I just saw a post that my Aunt Connie wrote and shared on Facebook and thought it was so well written and such a great tribute to Uncle Harold that I had to share it here:

My Uncle Harold

My mother's oldest brother was named Harold.  He was born in 1920 and when my mom spoke of him, you'd always sense a little reverence in her voice.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I really understood why.  I knew he had been wounded in World War II.  I knew people spoke about him as if his walking was amazing, but as a child I didn't really understand.  

Uncle Harold and his wife Aunt Betty came and visited us in Alaska when my son was about 7.  I hadn't seen them since I was probably 10 or 11....An 11 year old doesn't really appreciate an Uncle and Aunt sometimes.  But I got to know them a bit as we travelled down to Homer together.  I remember that Uncle Harold's birthday was during the trip, so I made a German Chocolate Cake.  I had pretty much forgotten about it, but I came to find out 20 years later that it was something they had certainly not forgotten.  

My husband and I moved to Illinois in 2003 and since that time we started vistiing Uncle Harold and Aunt Betty on occasions, and I really started to understand what a hero my Uncle was.  My Uncle enlisted in the Army in 1940 and served until September 1945.  He was literally blown out of a foxhole, which basically ripped his calf muscle competely off, and destroyed some of his thigh muscle as well.  I don't know all the details, but I know bits and pieces.   I know that an older Dr. wanted to amputate his leg and a younger Dr. wanted to give a new drug, "penicillin" a try.  They actually packed the open gangrenous wound with the medicine, gave him penicillin and waited 24 hours to decide whether to amputate his leg.  

Twenty-four hours later, improvement was seen, and his leg was saved.  He ended up being transferred to the hospital in Springfield, Mo. and when my Aunt Betty met him he had a cast on his leg, with a turnbuckle on his knee joint and his ankle joint.  The knee and ankle were bent and could not straighten up and they would turn the turnbuckle each day to straighten his leg and ankle.  He said it was excruciating. They told him he would never walk again.  He told them he would dance at his wedding.  

I seem to remember him telling me about wheelchair races int he hallway of the hospital, even tho it terrorized the nurses.  Aunt Betty even yesterday says, "I can't believe he was interested in me, he was so handsome".  I remember Uncle Harold saying he saw Aunt Betty and that was it.  She told us yesterday that Uncle Harold and her would go out to the movies.  Her cousin Sarah says, and what did you do?  She says "neck".  She says we had to go places with public transportation because Uncle Harold didn't have a car, which she says was good thing.  We all die of shock.  They were marreid in the spring of 1946.   I don't know if there was dancing, but he was certainly walking.  

My Uncle was a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.  

My uncle endured repeated surgeries.  I know he endured pain beyond belief.  He never complained.  Instead he was so happy about how long he had been able to walk and work, and provide for him and his wife.  

My Uncle Harold loved to drive and he didn't go the same way twice.  When we would visit he would take us on drives out in the countryside surrounding Springiled.  Aunt Betty would pack us a lunch and off we would go.  I felt comfortable enough to holler from the back seat as he would corner crazily, "We're all gonna die", and he would look at Doug and say, "Well, I didn't want to take it off the cruise control."  

My Uncle Harold called me Elaine (my mom's name) a lot.  When Aunt Betty would say, "Harold, that's not Elaine", he would respond, "Well, if she didn't sound just like Elaine, I wouldn't call her Elaine".  

When you would start talking about heading out to home, Uncle Harold would ask you "Which way are you going home?"  Then the Atlases would come out.  He and Aunt Betty would get out some maps and start planning your trip home so that you would have the prettiest drive, or the fastest trip, or see somethijng new.  So much fun!

My Uncle Harold did not live in the past.  When my young neice at the end of her high school years came to visit, we went and saw Uncle Harold and Aunt Betty.  They carried on a conversation about her goals and her college education choices, her interests, his injury, and family.  There was no generation gap!  

My Uncle Harold died on Saturday, April 14.  He was 91 years old.  He was a Christ-follower and he was ready to be released from the pain this world had dealt him.  His wife is grieving, his nieces and nephews miss him, and anyone who ever met him, misses a friend.  I would like to honor my Uncle Harold.  
This is my Uncle Harold and Aunt Betty (I believe on their wedding day).

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