Monday, May 28, 2012

I didn't want the story to end.

His name was James Hartlieb.  He was always getting into trouble and always getting hurt.  Good looking too. Wherever he went the girls would stop and look his way.  He was Bernice's favorite brother, her younger brother, and she couldn't stop smiling when he was around.  Jimmy always had something "stupid" to say but it didn't matter because whatever it was he knew it would made everyone laugh.  He lit up a room with his personality.  He was "cheeky".  He was a "Jack Ass".  He was perfect.

He was his mother's favorite too, most likely his dad's as well though they'd never admit it.  He was the kid on the block everyone loved.  "There goes that Jimmy, wonder what he's been up to..?" was always on folk's minds but never without a chuckle.  He could do all sorts of mischief but somehow it was ok when he was behind it.  After all, with a wink and a grin, who could resist that handsome mug?

When the second World War broke out, it was chaos.  Southern California, especially the Port of Long Beach, was adrift in Navy ships and military maneuvers.  The Hartlieb family lived in the heart of this city.  Bernice and her brothers found it exciting; however, her parents knew that their sons would soon enlist with the rest of the nation's finest and they were right.  The boys were were ready to go almost as soon as the bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbor

Bernice never worried about her older brother, Robert.  She knew instinctively he would be fine.  But Jimmy, no - not him.  He couldn't stay away from danger.  It seemed to follow him like a cloud on a rainy day so when the week before Jim was set to be shipped off, he was in a car wreck, a bad one - she almost sighed a sigh of relief.

"Ok, good.  He wasn't killed.  He was banged up pretty badly.  He was drinking, the fool, and wrecked his car, but at least he wasn't dead - the Jack Ass."

Did that stop him from going off to fight?  No.  He was determined and was up on his feet in no time.  With his classic grin and a kiss goodbye to mother and sister, he boarded his US Coast Guard ship never to see his family again.

Bernice, was Eric's Grandmother.  Eric is my husband.  Bernice, Grammy, passed away just last week.  She used to share this story with me often before I moved to Colorado.  Whenever she got to the point in the story where her brother's ship was torpedoed, she would have a tear in her eye.  She said she just knew he would never come back.  "Kids like Jimmy never did."  

Her mother, Eric's Great Grandmother, was a Gold Star Mother during World War II.  This was a club formed shortly after World War I to provide support for women who had lost sons or daughters in the war.  She was given a flag to hang in her window and a pin to wear as a symbol of honor for her loss.  Grammy always spoke of this and about her mother's deep sorrow for the loss of her son. 

I didn't want to go to bed tonight without sharing this piece of family history.  Goodnight my dear friend, Bernice.  I wanted to make sure Jimmy's story continued.  I thought this would make you happy. 
All my love, Bri.