that’s him lounging in the foreground with the hat pulled over his eyes.
my uncle, ralph holmes, jr., died a couple of days after his 87th birthday last week. he was the last living link, the last of that generation of family related to my mother. he was almost exactly 10 years younger than she, the result of my grandmother’s second marriage. treated like an only child, adored by my mother, they were “this” close [author puts his fingers together in demonstration of how close they were].
he was a regular visitor to our home, usually late saturday morning after he’d been at work for a half day, he drive up 6th street to the north side of town (definitely “the other side of the tracks” and in this case, “the other side of the creek”). he and my mother would sit and talk, whatever adults talk about — here i am an adult now and i think that their conversation was less significant than it seemed at the time — although i do believe they solved family issues. this once a week conversation lasted up until my mother died in may of 1982. (it’s possible that they continued conversing afterwards, their mother, bessie holmes, had the gift. whether she passed it on or not i’ll never know. no one in the family ever discussed it.)
i can’t say he was a ‘father’ figure to me–i don’t know that any of the men in my mother’s life up until her last husband ever really met that definition for me, exclusive of mary, my mother’s lesbian lover pre-husband #4. but i liked being around him.
he and his wife, marilyn, had an only child, rodney, just two days older than i. ralph would take us boys out for our birthdays — and we always spent christmas at their house and sometimes thanksgiving, if my mother hadn’t gotten irritated by marilyn’s perfection and insisted on preparing one or another of the holiday meals. although rodney and i were cousins and the same age, we never really got along–he tolerated me and although i tried to be friendly with him, it was apparent even to my pollyanna nature that he had no interest in being my friend. the less we were related the better.
my uncle and i fell apart after my grandfather and grandmother died followed shortly by the death of my mother. it concerned money, of course. not that i was involved in the imbroglio–although i benefited–but his wife and their son felt that we had stolen from them their rightful inheritance. you’d think it would have ended there. (somehow my sexuality is also a problem for those who are still alive on that side of the family. really? it’s 2013, you’d think…)
but it didn’t. in the late ’90s he called me out of the blue and told me he was living in santa barbara with a new wife–his high school sweetheart, marie– and would i like to get together and so began a new, enlightened relationship with my uncle and his wife, who survives him. my lover, m. and i would get together with them once or twice a year, either driving up to see them or meeting in l.a. at a museum for lunch and a talk. it was great.
he and i would reminisce — one of the few relatives i had to have had similar memories and times we could share — he had such a wonderful manner about him, fun-loving and generous with his love, a result of the new wife; she having been instrumental in the revival of our relationship and to whom i owe a great debt of gratitude for bringing the two of us back together.
i know he loved my mother and i think he loved me and that’s enough for me even though in his obituary there was no mention that he had had a nephew and they only mentioned his sister, my mother, by her first name, not wanting to tarnish it with her fourth husband’s last name–whom they loathed. families are strange, are they not?
so goodbye to my uncle ralph, i loved you too.