Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Uncle Ralph Never Wrote To Me

This shoebox of letters was a strange gift and one I never expected. I have lived with this shoebox, and it's mate, for the past two years; reading, transcribing, putting events into chronological order, and now these boxes of letters are morphing into a book. Such a precious gift. As I worked with the letters, the letters gave life to this poem.

My Uncle Ralph never wrote to me.

He was only a dim memory until

my Aunties gave the letters to me.

A shoebox filled with weekly missives

from 1980 thru 1985

to sisters, Verna and Olive,

to be read, shared, & put in a shoebox

then tucked away in a drawer or on a closet shelf.

My Uncle Ralph never wrote to me

Each began the same,

Dear Olive & Norman,

or Dear Verna & Rowe.

Week in and week out

weather reports, 78 degrees,

from the ocean a nice breeze,

heavier than usual rains,

snow in the mountains

above 4000 ft.,

rain caused 12 car pile up

over by Del Mar,

each had a sameness

and ended with Love, Ralph & Sally

Ralph read 6 newspapers a day.

He dinna have much else to do,

what with old age and a bad knee from 1974.

He scoured each page for tidbits

to write about, to entertain his sisters,

a springboard for pages and pages of thoughts

on politicians (crooked),

world events (going to hell),

and the economy (good for the rich, but not the poor).

These were the thoughts

of an everyday kind of man who

read 6 newspapers a day.

Television was his friend.

He was on the pole at Del Mar & Santa Anita,

was in a front row seat

at a Padre’s game,

instant replay for the Chargers,

and San Diego U Aztecs.

He yearned for cable tv,

he then could get all the games,

but said, “I hardly have time

to watch the games on local channels.”

Television was his friend.

He was an everyday kind of guy.

Ranted and raved about crooked politicians,

kept track of cops on the take

and cops doing their duty with courage & bravery.

Sadly shook his head at conniving developers

and the ever increasing population

that clogged the streets, the freeways and malls.

He cried at man’s inhumanity

that sawed off the beaks of Pelicans.

He enjoyed the annual Mother Goose Parade

as though he was yet a child.

He was an everyday kind of guy.

He was in his 80s

when he penned the last

of these boxes of kept letters,

but his memories of childhood,

family, snow storms & mountain roads

kept me enthralled.

Aunts & uncles whom I dinna know

became people with real lives.

Grandparents, who were old in my childhood

now had a history

so different than I ever imagined.

He was in his 80s when he penned these gifts.

His memories he gave to me;

he & his sister going to school,

in Madison’s 5th Ward

where they had real teachers

and one who had taught their Mom too;

one room schools in Minnesota,

Grandpa driving delivery wagons,

buying and selling horses,

taking care of the children,

caring for Grandma when she was ill,

teaching her to walk again.

Memories of long treks from Wisconsin & Minnesota

to sunny California

with all their belongings tied on alongside.

These memories, and more, Uncle Ralph gave to me.

My Uncle Ralph never wrote to me

he never came to visit after my Dad was gone,

he was only a dim memory of a story long told

or mentioned at a family storytelling.

Tho my Uncle Ralph never wrote to me,

his words, more’n million handwritten words,

on thousands of pages, white, pink, blue tablet,

thin see-thru paper so “the postage dinna hurt,”

gave me a front row seat to his thoughts and memories

and came to me in shoeboxes, treasured shoeboxes,

treasured words, treasured stories.

I do believe my Uncle Ralph did write to me.

(Note: I dinna know why, but it seemed important tonite to share my Uncle Ralph with my readers/JGH)


  1. That was absolutely BEAUTIFUL and a wonderful welcome to my first stop by your blog. Loved it - and now I feel like your Uncle Ralph wrote to me, too!


  2. Thank you for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed my tribute to my Uncle Ralph.

  3. Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting.
    I had read this story earlier and thought I had left a comment.
    It was warm, and impelling. I think that extended family is so important in family history.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Joan, I have nominated you for the "Kreativ Blogger" Award! I enjoy reading your blog, and was especially touched by your poem for Uncle Ralph. :)
    Please stop by my blog to pick up your award. Congratulations!


  5. What a wonderful gift - and poem - and SMILE! WOW!

    I cannot wait to read the book!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Bill ;-)

    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"