Saturday, October 10, 2015

Uncle Bob's Remember-y

By Diana C. White

  My Uncle Bob, Robert Knox Capps, mother's youngest brother, lived to be 104.  Born March 18, 1911, he died September 21 this year, the last of his sibship.  He told me, at my last visit Labor Day weekend, "Honey, my forget-ery works overtime, and my remember-y sometimes works not at all, so forgive me if I repeat myself!"  

That was another remarkable bunch, my mama's family.  Uncle Bob didn't get to go to college, and always felt a little bit apologetic about it.  He went to work for GM in Charlotte right out of high school, and all his training was in the GM
and Buick leadership courses, and he passed on to others some of that knowledge, particularly his experience of completely re-organizing the parts warehouse in Chicago for Buick, and writing the first GM manual for warehouse and parts managing; they sent him to seven different cities in the US, to re-organize or start warehouse operations, and always, he wrote a new manual for how to do it. 

          And stories!  He was the best storyteller in a family of storytellers.  One of my favorite ways to spend a summer afternoon was to sit quietly on the screen porch at Uncle Crowell's, listening and learning and laughing,  while Mama and Uncle Bob and Uncle Crowell would tell stories, remembering the old days.  Since Crowell (also called Bud) was the older, his perspective was different from Bob's, the youngest, and Catherine's  female take on things was different yet again.  So they'd follow one another, each topping something the last one told, and if the boys flagged a bit, Mama would start another line of tales! 

Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church
          Uncle Bob gave a big birthday party at Pleasant Hill Presbyterian on his 90th birthday.  He told us all then, those of us who were still on this side of Jordan when he turned 100 were invited for another big blowout.  On his 100th, same venue, many of the same crowd, he gave each of us a plastic-bound picture-rich book of his memories called, "My 100 Years by Bob Capps."

           There was of course a certain amount of competition among the brothers and sister, for tales.  It lasted on into their old age.  Mama had developed glaucoma and lost her sight, at 90; each of her brothers called her every day, those last few months (Uncle Ross, the oldest, and Aunt Marg, the older girl, were dead by then). 

           They'd compare gardens.  "Yes, Bud," Mama would say, "we did get some rain today.  What'd you get?  Half an inch? wonderful!  Wait, I'll ask John."  John was the neighbor who did the plowing and planting and picking for her, that last summer - she'd sit in a lawn chair and he'd bring her tomatoes and have her hold and smell the biggest.  He came over most afternoons to check on her and bring her the day's harvest.
           "John," she'd say, "my brother Bud got half an inch, and Bob told me earlier he got three-quarters.  What did we get?"
            "Well, Miss Catherine," he'd opine, "I checked your rain gauge on my way in, as I was bringing in your latest batch of cucumbers; you got seven-eighths of an inch!"  John understood perfectly well how the game was played.

            We have a goodly heritage, do we not?  And God send that we leave another set of good examples and good memories - and good stories - for those who are coming after us!