Not your typical love story. Not your typical man.
“LOVE – first, last, unselfish, fulfilled”
Mother and Dad divorced when I was eleven after many years of a very rocky marriage. Mom never remarried or even dated. When she died at the age of eighty-four, she still considered herself wed to my father although he had been remarried for over thirty years. I could write of her love story, but it would be too tragic.
I could write my own love story, as my wife and I have celebrated more than fifty years of marriage. But that story would be too boring.
The love story that needs to be told belongs to my mother’s brother, Uncle Roy. When I was born, Roy was a few years younger than Mom and was working on the farm with his father, going to college, and working part time at a filling station (term for gas station in 1942) . In 1943, Roy received the letter from the president congratulating him on being selected to serve his country. Off to war went Uncle Roy, a twenty-year-old college boy who loved sports, hunting, fishing, and farm life. On his return, he came back a bald-headed man who often had a far away look in his eyes. He took up his part-time work and seemed satisfied to stay on the farm.
During the on and off again marriage of my parents, Roy became a surrogate father to my brother and me. He was as good of a substitute dad as anyone could ask for. Many days, he would come home after work, bring a quart of ice cream which he, my brother, and I had to sit and eat instantly as we had no electricity on the farm. It was never his favorite flavor, or mine, or brother’s, but a different flavor each time - surprising us and broadening our scope of life in the ice cream arena. Although we lived in town, I spent every opportunity I had on the farm, and it seemed more like home to me than town did.
One day when I was about twelve, I was sent to the house to look for something for Uncle Roy. While searching, I came across a framed picture lying face down in a drawer. It was of an attractive young lady. Returning it to its spot, I said nothing to Uncle Roy of my find. Some days later when I returned home, I told Mom about it, and she told me the story.
The young college boy had been engaged (unknown to his parents) when he was drafted. Two years later, he had received a Dear John letter. The war had certainly affected Roy, but I suspect the letter had even more of an effect and explained why he dedicated so much of his life to a surrogate family.
When I was sixteen, Roy and I went to town to get some parts. Gathering our purchases, Roy paused unexpectedly. I didn't know why, but by the look that came over his face, I realized an old wound had been reopened. As we left the store, he glanced back at a rather haggard-looking woman standing by her loud, pot-bellied husband and said to me, “I used to know her. Her name was Mary. Boy, the years have been rough on her.” That’s all he said, and I asked nothing, but I knew. Mother confirmed Mary was the first love and the Dear John author.
Roy continued to be as much a father to me as anyone could be until I was married, and then he became like a grandfather to our children. Roy remained on the farm until Grampa passed away. I do not know if Roy dated anyone from the end of the war until his father died twenty years later, but I doubt it. I spent too much time with him not to have known.
At the age of fifty-one, Roy informed his mother and us that he was getting married. His love seemed as complete as it could be. Dorothy was divorced with several grown children, and Roy immersed himself in that family as deeply as if they had been together a lifetime. I was so happy to see him happy, but also a little sad for now I must release the man who gave me so much to his new family. They seemed deliriously happy until four years later when Dorothy developed cancer. Roy never left her side until separated by death. I thought surely this was the emotional end for Uncle Roy. How wrong I was. Two years after Dorothy died, Roy remarried a wonderful woman who had lost her husband to cancer about the same time Dorothy had died. They had met at the hospital while caring for their loved ones.
After both spouses had died they began seeing each other and fell in love. Again, it was complete; and Roy became a part of Peggy’s family as if they had been together for years.
Roy died suddenly at the age of sixty-five a few months after he retired. He had a heart condition no one knew about, but the nitro pills were found in his pick-up truck after his death.
I still mourn the loss of Uncle Roy, but his story is not a tragedy. It is a story of love. Young love that often does not work out . . . Unselfish love to family . . . Fulfilling love at a time in life when most would give up, Uncle Roy had remained open to the joy of love and found it twice.
** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **
** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **
The top picture is obviously my Uncle Roy Klingman
The next one on the left is of my mother, Pauline Klingman Ethridge, my grandmother, Cecil Klingman, my grandfather (Gramps) R.F Klingman, and my Uncle Roy Klingman.
The picture beside it is the family he gave so much to: myself, Jim Ethridge, my mother, Pauline Klingman Ethridge, my older sister, Jeanette Ethridge Atwood, and my older brother, Ace Ethridge.
The bottom picture is of my Uncle Roy (2nd from the left) with his buddies.