Early June’s blog about D-Day reminded me of another story dad told me about Uncle Donnie. I was in the 7th grade, and reading Truth is Stranger than Fiction at the kitchen table. Dad sat across from me and I asked him if he believed someone could be seen in two places at the same time.
To answer me, Dad told me another WW2 story. My father got a report that his younger brother Donnie was mortally wounded in Italy. He had been machine-gunned in his head, and my father was in France. A priest with the unit helped my dad to travel to Donnie in Italy. The report changed to Donnie was dead, but my father was enroute to be with him. When he arrived Donnie had survived despite reports to the contrary. Donnie now had a metal plate in his head. It had been thought he was no longer alive, but he fooled them. Dad was surprised the priest that had helped him in the distance. He wasn’t able to get close to him before he disappeared. There were a few instances that the priest was seen in two different places, both far apart, when battles happened.
Uncle Donnie and my dad both survived and returned to East Cambridge. My dad and mom married, and I was born. When I was around four and a half, a wonderful thing happened in the spring. Uncle Donnie knocked on our front door and handed me— a rabbit! Somehow my dad cobbled together a small hutch that was kept on the floor by the kitchen table. No one was happy about the rabbit, except for me and Uncle Donnie. HIs eyes sparkled when he gave it to me. I was in heaven! Rabbits are magical creatures that know how to travel the secret roads, and here was my own. My rabbit disappeared twice. It ‘got loose’, but I somehow knew when it happened and ran outside screeching for help. My neighbor, Mr. Foti, saw the rabbit under his car and returned her to me. This happened several times. I grew to be distrustful of my mum who was always in the area and she was none too happy when Mr. Foti found the rabbit. One day my rabbit disappeared for good but Uncle Donnie was kind enough to find me another. Uncle Donnie brought a sense of magic, wonder, and hope into my life when he did this, always with a twinkle in his eyes.
A year later he married Dolores and I was at the wedding. Dolores looked like a fine princess to me… so much puffy white fabric and lovely smelling flowers. She welcomed me with a smile, and let me slide next to her to sit in a booth! I was in heaven, and it’s their wedding that I remember each time I’m at that sort of celebration, and whenever I slide into a red leather booth. Aunt Dolores, Uncle Donnie and I kept in touch over the years.
Years later, when I went through difficult times, Aunt Dolores and I talked. When my uncle died and life changed for Dolores, she and I talked about her difficult decisions. Dolores has recently passed away. Since spring I’ve remembered our conversations as we tried to re-weave our changed lives. This June brings small cotton tail bunnies hopping in my yard. And I re-experience the delight that Uncle Donnie’s rabbits brought.