I wrote this to my grandchildren ten years ago.
Today would be your grandfather Ralph Norman’s 73rd birthday. A good man, a talented, gifted man, he achieved much in his short life of forty-five years, He was an only child, born when his mother was in her thirties, a much loved child. He was the only grandchild and only nephew – hovered over by doting elders. What chance such a child had to grow independent and resourceful is amazing to me.
Up to the time we married, (he was 23 and I 22), each day his mother laid out his clothes to wear. I refused that task and let him drop his clothes where he wished each night. There they lay, trousers on top of shirts and shirts on top of trousers until nothing was left to wear except what lay wrinkled on the floor. He said not a word, just picked up a crumpled outfit and walked out the door. I was so embarrassed!I could have handed him the iron but instead I began to hang his clothes in the closet. Somewhere along the life of our marriage, habits shifted and we both mellowed - me out of my self-righteousness and him out of his sloppiness. To be kind to both of us, let’s say we grew up a little.
Ralph was musical and played a wide range of horns from trombone to French horn, clarinet and saxophone to bassoon with miscellaneous instruments in between. The war years of 1941 to 1945 gave him many opportunities for professional playing. He was in the Evansville, Indiana Symphony at the age of thirteen; led his own band when I first know him in college.
Ralph was overweight most of his life. Considering his childhood, I’m not surprised. Of German background, his family ate food soaked in grease on liberal grease; beans in bacon fat, the table loaded with two or three meats, potatoes. I don’t remember a simple salad – just loads of fattening, good old German cooking.