Saturday, April 28, 2012

Uncle Gary

My great grandparents were the parents of 10 children born between 1918 and 1939.  I think that my great grandparents were excellent parents who enjoyed their children and their life together.  However, there was one loss that occurred in July of 1947 that forever wounded their hearts.
Gary riding his trike!
The grandfolks last child, Gerald Eugene Gage, was most likely a surprise.  Granddad was 47 when he was born and Grandma was 42.  I’m sure that they didn’t plan on having one more child.  I think perhaps that Grandma especially enjoyed this youngest child.  She probably had more time to devote to him without the other children around so much.  They were either out living their lives or going to school when Gary was young.  There are a lot of pictures of Gary with his brothers but also on his own.  Just a year after Gary was born, Grandma Gage became a grandmother for the first time.  Although she didn’t get to see these first three grandchildren until 1943 – it must have been something to have a child that was only a year older than your first grandson.

When my father’s family first moved out from North Dakota where he was born…it was a memorable arrival for his uncles.  They dragged their sleds down to the road and towed the younger ones back up to the house, where my great grandmother probably got her hands finally on her first grandchildren.  Dad and his two younger sisters and their mother stayed with the Grandfolks for a time.  It must have been the first opportunity that my father had to play with a boy who was close to his own age in his uncle Gary.  However, Dad never really referred to him as Uncle Gary…they were in fact part of the little boys.  I’m sure the older ones thought it was their job to get the two little boys in trouble and introduce them to some of the finer points of boyhood.

Before too long…Dad and his family lived just down the road in their own home.  Dad still played with his uncles and probably got into his share of trouble as he and Gary followed around after the older boys.  One summer when my father had just turned 7 – he lost his uncle Gary.  Gary was with his brother and some other boys and were playing on some logs and Gary fell  in the Palouse River.  He got swept away and tragically drowned – just a few weeks after his own 8th birthday.  The photograph of him during his first communion is especially poignant because it was one of the last photographs taken of him.

The Grandfolks didn’t lose any of their other children until 1984, when one of their daughters died of cancer.  I remember sometime after that having the opportunity to talk with Grandma about this tender subject.  I’ll never remember how we got onto the subject but she told me a few stories about Gary.  I could tell that her voice still wobbled a bit and her eyes were incredibly sad…even though it had happed almost 40 years prior – it was still an incredibly painful subject for her.  Being young enough and curious enough – I asked her if it was harder to lose an adult child or a young child.  She looked at me and told me that it was much harder when Gary died.  Her daughter Norma had lived her life – married and had children…Gary never had the opportunity.  She then asked me to make sure that Gary’s grave had flowers on it come Memorial Day.  I promised her that my mother and I would take care of it…and we did.  We then called and assured her that it had been done.

Gary and his older brothers.
Several years after Gary’s death, a paperboy came to their door in Lewiston, ID to collect for the newspaper…my grandmother got out her money and asked the young man what his name was…he replied Gary Gage.  I met Gary many years later – and it was something that he also always remembered.  He said that my grandmother turned white and he thought she was going to faint.  My grandfather came into the room and figured out the situation very quickly…he got my grandmother seated – turned and paid the Gary what was required and Gary left to go on his way.  It must have been heart breaking to meet another Gary Gage who was the same age as the beloved son that they had lost.  I think that Gary’s loss…was a wound that never healed for my grandparents for the remaining years of their long lives.  Today, Grandma and Granddad Gage are buried next to their son Gary, at the Catholic section in the Moscow City Cemetery.