Sunday, June 18, 2006

Remembering the daddy I never knew

Staff Sgt. Claude R. Hall, 29, was killed by a hit and run driver on September 18, 1943 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was there that day, but I was not aware.

I was there with mama and your two- year- old son Ronald Dean, that day, but I was not aware. I was on the train with you, mama and Ronald Dean on that long trip home, but I was not aware. You know how stubborn mama was and can imagine what she said when told she could not ride in the train car that carried your body. Oh, she was there right by your side the entire way to Salisbury. I went to the cemetery last weekend and I ran my fingers across the words on your tombstone that mama wanted inscribed on there. "He was a good soldier, a good husband and a good father". As you and she planned, mama named me after both of you. Claude Reuben Hall and Ruby Hall named their daughter, Claudia Ruby Hall. After you were gone your daddy or none of the Halls had anything to do with us except for your brother James and wonderful sister, Maie. Uncle James and Aunt Margaret bought us and helped us learn to ride our first bicycles. Aunt Maie and Uncle Watt kept us months at a time when mama would be in the hospital. They wouldn't let me work in the tobacco but made me try to milk a cow. Never got no milk out. In looking at some pictures daddy, I was an ugly baby, but had the thickest head of black hair. I became independent and stubborn just like mama and Ronald Dean became mama's little man. He called me Sister until I was 16 yrs old. I got mad at him and told him NOT to call me Sister anymore. He quit and I regret it to this day. He got aggravated with me a couple years ago and he said "You are just like your mama". Huh, I said to him, "Yes and I am proud of it". He shut up. She moved us around a lot, she was just lost without you. In fact we moved so much Ronald Dean had to repeat the first grade. After many moves mama bought a house in Ellerbe. Our first house with an inside bathroom, running water and even a furnace. Mama never did remarry. You had been gone only 10 years when mama had cancer surgery done at Duke University Hospital in 1953. All they had then daddy was radiation. Mama would catch the train at Hamlet and go to Walter Reed Army Hospital for treatments every so often. Other times, she would go to Ft. Bragg. You would have been proud of Ronald Dean. Although he was not old enough for driver's license, when mama was too sick to drive, he would drive by himself to Ft. Bragg to get mama her medicine. Mama was the strongest willed, most elegant lady I ever knew and she fought that dreaded disease until the good Lord said no more. Many said she would have made a good Philidelphia lawyer. She had Dr. Rankin in Ellerbe for a family doctor. I mowed his grass at his office and me and Ronald Dean both had paper routes to help mama out. She asked Dr. Rankin to tell her when she should go to Walter Reed because she didn't want to die at home. She knew it would be harder on us. When he told her time was near, she sent me to Bible camp in Southport. I remember leaving that morning to walk to the church to get on the bus. Mama knew she would never see me again but she never let on to me. Ronald Dean drove her to Hamlet to catch the train for her final trip to Walter Reed. Ronald Dean was 16 then and was still mama's little man. He remembers their goodbyes well. Zotus's daughter, Ruth, was a nurse at Walter Reed then. After losing 25 lbs, mama died in Ruth's arms on her 13th day there which was Wednesday, August 20, 1958 at 10:00 p.m. Mama was 46. I still treasure the last three letters mama wrote me, the writing was not good because she was so weak. The last letter written the night before she died, Ruth had to write it for mama. In her last letter she said she was so weak if she were a snake she couldn't make a shadow in muddy water. Mama's body arrived home on Friday at the train station in Hamlet and was buried beside you on Saturday. They let me pick out her dress. It was pink and she looked almost as pretty in death as she did in life. It was a rainy day and it was the first funeral procession I can remember ever being in. As we crossed the square, Claudine Phifer a policewoman and a family friend was standing with her hat off and her hand on her heart. Mama never would have been buried at your daddies church, but she wanted to be buried beside you, the husband she never forgot. Years later Jerrell and I removed the contrete border that surrounded your grave, united the two graves and spread new gravel and bordered it with slate rocks. We later removed the gravels and slate rocks, planted grass to help the mowers job easier. Ronald Dean and I wanted you together, not separated by a border of concrete. After that day all I had left was grandma, Ronald Dean and a pocketful of marbles. I was not classy like mama. I was a tomboy daddy and liked boy stuff, but later I became more lady like. I think you would be proud of me and Ronald Dean. We never did nothing we think would have disappointed you or mama. We still talk about you and miss you, but we also know that God knows best, but in our human way we often ask why. So daddy, mama joined you 15 years after you left. 29 and 46 was too young for both of you to go, but God surely had his reasons. Happy Father's Day Daddy.

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