Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Lost Generations

This past Friday the last of three generations of family members passed away.

I had the pleasure of getting to know and spend time with Great Grandma Clara, Great Uncle Raymond, Grandfather James and Grandmother Dorothy, Grandfather Antony and Grandmother Astrid and Great Uncle Richard.

My Great Uncle Raymond was the last of those family members, on both sides of my family, older than my parents that was still alive.

He was such an amazing link to the past. A true world traveler, merchant marine during WWII and beyond through retirement. He told stories of ports of call from the USSR to China, the Horn of Africa to Alaska, Australia to Thailand.

My parents rushed down to Florida to be with him. The hospital reported that he was only a few days away from leaving us. On Friday my sister Natalie flew down from the DC area and arrived just an hour or so after he died.

He was a good man. Kind, loving, dedicated to the family, and always there to help out in many ways.

I have such great memories of staying in his guest house as a kid in Miami, of Christmas Eve orange picking when his grove was hit by a freeze, of hanging out at his lake house in Umatilla FL and watching for the ever elusive alligator that haunted the neighborhood.

He will be, is, greatly missed, and I mourn for the lost generations of wisdom and experience from our family.

One of the things I loved most about him was his cool and calm demeanor and deadpan style. It was nearly impossible to tell when he was being dead serious, or when he was delivering the heapingest pile of BS you ever heard but were convinced it was true because of the delivery.

Even in his final years, well beyond 80, he cracked me up. Just recently he got a traffic ticket in Florida for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.

The policeman pulled him over and asked for his license and registration then asked Uncle Raymond if he knew why he pulled him over.

Uncle Raymond: “Yes.”

The policeman: “You didn’t come to a full stop at the stop sign. Didn’t you see it?”

Uncle Raymond: “Yes.”

Policeman: “Well, why didn’t you stop?”

Uncle Raymond: “If I’d seen you, I would’ve."

12 year old Raymond Dennis at his childhood home on
Brasher Avenue in Nashville. He's holding his dearly loved "Buck the dog."
The date is September 1936, and he has his whole life ahead of him.