Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I think if there is one kind of picture that I am sentimental about it is of a child sitting on a grandpa's, or grandma's, lap. It may be the significance of old and young, or beginning and ending, but I think the real significance is simply "Love."

I was not lucky enough to have grandfathers still living when I was a kid. My paternal grandfather died in 1919 when he was 44 years old, and my maternal grandfather died in 1934 when he was 54. I was not yet born.

The picture above is my Uncle Hughie - Hugh Sterling Ryland - when he was about two years old, sitting on his grandpa's knee back on the Ryland farm in Caldwell, Kansas. I have lots of pictures of my great grandpa James A. Ryland in his old age. Isn't he absolutely wonderful-looking? Like a character in a painting or a movie. But the reason this particular picture is so special is because the child on his knee was also a very special man in my life.

Uncle Hughie was my mom's youngest brother. He was 14 when I was born, and again, I am lucky to have a picture of him and his older brother Bert holding me when I was just a little tot. Not many young men got to be Uncles when they were that age, and my mother said my arrival made them proud as punch.

Uncle Hughie joined the service after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 and he fought in Italy and Sicily. My first recollections of Uncle Hughie were of a smiling man in a military uniform coming to our house, a doll under each arm. One was for me and one was for my sister. Our eyes lit up. If one ever wanted to get the right kind of present for a little girl, a doll was it. And Uncle Hughie knew it. He was, throughout his life, the kindest, most loving Uncle that any kids could have had. After the war he lived next door to us, first in a duplex that my father built and then as his own family increased, across the street in a larger house that my dad owned. At the time he drove a milk truck on a delivery route, so he was up long before dawn and would be home early in the afternoon. He often stopped by the house to have a cup of coffee with my mom, so my sis and I had probably more interaction with him than with any of my other relatives in town. If my sis and I needed help while my father was at work, we always knew our Uncle Hughie would happily give us a hand.

Of course as we grew up our contact with him was pretty much limited to vacations, as he had rejoined the military and was stationed at various locations. But on trips out to California, and on a few I made back to Colorado, the contact with Uncle Hughie was always eagerly anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed.

One of my joys was being able to be an adult and still have my aunts and uncles in my life. Uncle Hughie never stopped being the warm, kind, loving Uncle I knew as a kid. I was very proud of what he accomplished in his life, being a good father, a good husband and a good uncle; not everyone can fulfill all those jobs well.

He died in August of 2007. I miss him, of course. But being involved in genealogy and now in writing my family history to pass on to my kids and grandkids, each day I am involved in "handling" my relatives through words and pictures. Whenever Uncle Hughie's life or image passes through my hands, I remember all over again how I felt as a child at having such an Uncle in my life. I was a very lucky girl.

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