Archives for the month of: May, 2020

My father and all my uncles served in World War II. Daddy was a Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Force and my five uncles served in the Army. All of them came home but one, my Uncle Bill, my father’s youngest brother. He died before my father met my mother, a couple of years before I was born, so I never knew him. On this Memorial Day, I’d like to tell what i know of his story.

My father was the oldest of four children. He and his brother and sister were all born within about three years, beginning in 1912, in Uniontown, Kentucky, where both of their parents were born. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas to start a new business and where William Lyle Hamilton was born in February, 1921. My mother was born the next month, which gives me a little perspective. Here is the first picture I find of Bill, obviously the baby of the family, with my father behind him, his brother, Ed, and his sister, Sara.Hamilton KidsThe family moved to Oklahoma City at some point, where my grandfather started his automotive parts business, J. C. Hamilton Co. Here is a photo of the family during that time. My father is on the front fender behind his brother, Ed. Bill stands on the running board between his sister and parents. It’s the only photo I can find of the whole family together, but you get the idea. Scan 35Years passed, the children grew up and the boys went into the family business. Sarah married my other Uncle Ed and started their family. When the United States joined World War II, all the men went into service. Here is my Uncle Bill with my grandfather. Clayton & BillMy grandfather was about 5’8″, so Uncle Bill was the smallest of the brothers in the family, besides being the baby. I still don’t know where my father got his height of 6’2″.

The brothers were stationed far apart for their service. I think my Uncle Ed served as a trainer, My Uncle Ed, married to Aunt Sara, served on General Patton’s staff. My father was a squadron commander, flying out of Africa to Italy, much like the story in the novel and movie, “Catch 22.” Uncle Bill was a Technical Sargeant. That’s what I know.

A few years ago, I traveled to Louisville, KY to go through some papers kept at the Filson Historical Society there. I had been told that the Hamilton papers were in their care and went to explore. I found boxes of papers belonging to my great-grandfather, mostly receipts for his business. But, there was a scrapbook kept by one of my father’s cousins, which was full of information I had never seen. I could only photograph the items quickly, but here are the things I found about my Uncle Bill. First is this article about his last mission.IMG_8720 And then this article from the local paper.IMG_8719All I had ever heard was that he was shot down while parachuting into Germany and was buried there, far from home. Then I found this touching letter, written to my father. I’m not sure how this got into this group of papers, but it showed a big brother trying to find more information about his little brother, probably trying to get answers for my grandparents.IMG_8722IMG_8723The letter shows they didn’t know right away if he was killed or captured, as this letter was written well over a month after he must have been killed, according to the newspaper clip above.

Now I have to imagine how this affected my grandparents and the rest of the family. They were in limbo for I have no idea how long and there is nothing harder than the not knowing – except for the knowing.

My memories of my grandparents are of them laughing and smiling and enjoying their family so much. My grandmother developed painful arthritis and my mother once told me that the doctors said that the stress of losing Bill may have been a factor. She was a grieving mother, but her grandchildren didn’t know this. I was the fifth of nine grandchildren, the middle, and I didn’t hear her speak of Bill. When I was in high school or college, my mother told me that my grandmother still got letters from Bill’s girlfriend. And she told me that my grandmother blamed FDR for her son’s death (because she needed to blame someone) and wouldn’t even have a stamp with his picture on it.

I never heard anyone speak of Bill, but I understand he was always in their hearts. I’ve lost a son at a young age and I know that you have periods of wondering what would his life have been like, where would he be now. And you always love them, they are always with you. I didn’t know these things when I was young and my grandparents were alive, so I never asked. I’m so sorry I didn’t know to let them share with me.

On this Memorial Day, I want to remember the uncle I never knew, the uncle who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our family. I don’t ever want to forget.

Thank you, William Lyle Hamilton. IMG_8718

 

 

You have to admit that the Coronavirus pandemic makes you face a lot of things in your life. This is an update from my last post when I tried to deal with these things early in the event, so I’m repeating myself because our minds tend to do that when there’s not much new to stimulate us and take us out of ourselves. I’ve seen my worst fears rise up from who knows where inside me and loom out there in front of me until I push them back where they came from.

The first one is the obvious if you are a parent. I don’t want anything to happen to my children, their spouses or my grandchildren. It would be devastating to watch any one of them suffer or succumb to this mysterious illness. I’ve always worried about them and I’ve lost my husband and son at young ages to cancer, so I know what I’m talking about here. It is truly devastating and my heart goes out to all who have been victims of this modern day plague. And I also hurt for those who have lost loved ones for any reason and were unable to be with them or other friends and family because of the social distancing. I will stay home or wear my mask (I’m getting quite the collection of cute ones) and practice physical distancing to protect everyone I love. Transmitting this to anyone, especially those I love, would be unforgivable to me.IMG_3816

The second one was serious at the beginning when my retirement funds were plummeting and I wondered what I would do if I lost my security. That one was more of a mental exercise because I know I would be resourceful and survive in some manner. I’ve had to regroup several times in my life and seem to land right side up. But I empathize with those who have lost jobs and income and have no answer in sight. It’s more than frightening and numbing to watch everything freeze up or go away. Americans are generous and helpful, but can we help everyone? It seems like we’re all trying. There is so much to do and so many to worry about.

Next, I’ve had a fear of not getting to do everything, or at least a lot of things, at age 74 while I still can. I’ve felt like I was racing to not miss any opportunity to experience whatever I can before either my mind, body, or money completely stop me. I’ve been stopped, as has the whole world. Maybe because my mother, who lived until almost 85, spent her last few years unable to walk more than a short way from her bed to her chair and back. She was the one, along with my grandmother, who always told me to never turn down an invitation and to explore all the time. My grandmother would say, “Let’s go somewhere” or “Let’s do something,” and off we would be to some new adventure. I was following in their fun footsteps until the world put the brakes on.

It’s been difficult to stay home without seeing my friends or my family. I’ve learned to kick back and enjoy the quiet, reading more, listening to nature as I sit outside on nice days or walk the neighborhood, greeting neighbors I’ve never met but we’re all friends now. Everyone sits out on their never before used porches and waves and smiles. I hope that feeling doesn’t go away.

I’m adapting and trying to stay calm as I watch months or years of my life (how much longer do I have anyway? – balanced by who knows how long any of us have) go by as I stay alone and fill the days with whatever (books, puzzles, cleaning, cooking, walking, television, trying to connect to family and friends) until I go to bed and then get up and do it all again. My sleep is sporadic, but what does it matter? I can nap when I want so I just go with it.

Don’t underestimate this time. It is difficult in different ways for each of us and we never know how others are really dealing with it. It’s a roller coaster of up and down moods and motivations and feelings of I’ve got this control shot by total chaotic responses to any given day. A worst fear was having to be an old person stuck at home alone. And here I am. Sigh.

And, once again, life is teaching me that planning is not what we can control, although planning gives us comfort to face what we should know by now is the unplanned. The challenge of life is to meet the unexpected that is sure to come. As always, being flexible beats being in control as a survival tool.

I’m sending love and hope to everyone out there who is hunkered down or going to work or just getting through this with whatever means you can. It’s just not easy, no matter how hard we try to pretend it is. It’s just another piece of life that we get to live through and hope to be able to look back on with a sigh of relief and maybe a smile and tear later.

Check on each other. You really don’t know how others are doing, no matter what they are pretending. Your call may be the thing that gets them through a low day.

Big imaginary hugs until we really can hug each other again.