My grandmother was a "Gold Star" mother for one week during WWII. My uncle was killed by enemy fire in a snowy field in Germany, his dog tags taken from his body and soon after the knock on the farmhouse door no mother wanted to answer. During a recovery effort in that same field 3 days later, movement and a thin pulse were detected from my uncles body and once again my grandmother answered the door to an Army chaplain. My uncle would be 88 this year. He was born on the fourth of July up in the great north woods, lovingly adored by his older sister Mary....my mother.
My uncles life was far from ideal. Being left behind was a common theme from age 3 when his father left for good, leaving a young wife and two small children behind. During the Depression years, my grandmother moved off the farm into town to waitress at the local restaurant. Leaving my uncle in the care of her brother on the farm, she took my mother with her. His wife left him shortly after the birth of their second child and he returned to the home of his mother where he stayed until his death. I do not know what he was like before the war but the uncle I knew was loud, angry and prone to yelling. If he was in one room, I made sure I was in another.
My mother called him just about every day and worried about him all the time. Though the difference in their age was only a year, she took her role of big sister seriously. She frets about him still and in those rare moments when she does talk, it is to ask after her brother and wonder where he is. I always assure her he is fine and if she's patient, he'll show up soon. My mother was looking for him this week and her love for him never so evident. She'll be watching the fireworks Monday night and I wonder if they will jog her memory of a certain young boy born on the fourth of July. Happy Birthday uncle.