ray had never been married and was in his 70's, a handsome man with thick, snow white hair. his niece was a new friend of mine and she and her family lived in the big house on his farm, while he resided in a trailer home across the yard.
the 1st time i met ray i was 9 months pregnant with my firstborn. i had an invitation to go out to my friends and help pick strawberries from their amazing patch. i jumped at the chance. (well it was maybe more of a small hop-remember i was big, pregnant and hot - it was june). ray helped us girls that day, talking quietly and making us laugh. we picked and picked and i remember him teasing me that my baby might be born with a strawberry birthmark. : )
about a yr. later my friends family had to move away and she offered us the chance to move to ray's farm. she said she handpicked us because she knew i'd been raised by my grandparents and knew i was used to older people. she wanted someone to look after uncle ray like she had.
what i didn't really understand that day we moved in, was how ray was going to look after all of us.
he was a quiet, gentle man always puttering about his acreage, mowing the lawn (ours too-how lucky were we?) planting great gardens, wood working, building and filling many bird feeders for us all to enjoy, or just sitting in the shade with a bottle of cold pop from the pump house fridge and a dog or cat by his side. I know now that he snuck my kids many a cold bottle and told them not to tell me,(momma had a thing about too much sugar...) it was their little secret and when they were enjoying it together, they'd hide back on the granary steps so i couldn't see them.
we bonded fast ray and i. i had no father or grandpa in my life anymore. i was a stay at home mom who did art fairs and i worked on my crafts in the basement all day. ray would walk to the end of the driveway in the late morning and collect the mail and head on over to deliver it to me and visit. i think he loved the excuse to make his daily trip in the house to chat awhile. (the man never learned to knock...it was the only hard thing about living there-i sure didn't walk around in my bra and undies-cause you never knew when he might come around the corner). he always had his pocket full of mini candy bars and he'd throw some on my work table. we tried them all, and he liked buying my favorites for me. he couldn't wait to show me what new projects he'd whipped up in his wood shop out back and we were the lucky recipients of many of his creations.
we planted huge gardens together and he helped watch my babies grow up. (two more were born in the years we lived there). when i was pregnant he'd keep an especially close eye on me, cautioning me not to work too hard, or lift too much. he'd say "be careful or you'll strain your milk"...so funny-this old man who'd never been a father. he was a dairy farmer and that's what they'd say about the cows! the man had very little experience with women, but he knew how to treat a lady.
my hubs worked out of town several of those years and it was such a comfort to me, alone in the country on the cold winter nights to look out my window and see his light on, just a stone's throw away if i needed anything. he'd have the snow brushed off my car in the morning and he always had the cup of sugar i needed to borrow. he'd even come and sit in the living room and listen for the sleeping babies the years i needed to have my older hockey player to the arena at 6 a.m.
ray was around the table for all the birthday parties and baptisms and he was as much a part of our family as anyone else. when he turned 80 his niece and i threw a big old surprise birthday party for him with all the neighbors and friends who loved him too. he was shy and did not like being the center of attention, but i think he loved that day.
we bought our own house after about 9 years and left that safe haven. uncle ray lived on for many more years and got close to 100. at his funeral when i paid my last respects, i leaned over and snuck a couple mini candy bars in his shirt pocket and with tears running down my face-thanked God & my lucky stars for the blessing that dear old man had been in my life.
he was a one in a million kind of guy- and he blessed my life in ways i'll never forget.
|i took this out the kitchen window one morning when ray drove by on the tractor, cleaning off |
the driveway after a major snow fall. he did NOT like to have his picture taken, i think he
may have been part amish. : )
p.s. ray used to tease us girls that the reason he was so good natured all the time was because he never married and never had to put up with a woman nagging at
him. might be some truth in that? tee hee
happy monday, and happy birthday to my adorable uncle tom...80 years young today! we love him sooooo much~