Sunday, May 6, 2018

My Uncle Morrice Dean

My Uncle Morrice Dean - we always say the Dean - was 10 years old when mama and daddy married. He was 11 when I was born and still young enough to get a kick out of pushing a giggling toddler around and around the house in a plain ole' cardboard box.

Mama was only 16 when she married and left Oklahoma City to make her home with my daddy in Arkansas. Although she was welcomed by her new family, she was frequently homesick and would send for her baby brother to stay a few weeks with her.


Clockwise from the top: Tallest is My Uncle Bob, My Grandpa, My Uncle Toby,
My Mama Virginia, My Uncle Morrice Dean, My Grandma, My Uncle Ted.
Morrice Dean was pretty much informally adopted by daddy's family and was a frequent visitor at the Middleton family home. He and Uncle Paul became great friends. He is most remembered by his always present glasses, wide smile, and free and easy disposition.


Mama, Morrice and Paul (Paul says Mama's knees in his back really hurt)
With Grandma's permission, Morrice Dean joined the Marines at only 17. He met and married a pretty blonde girl at the beach while stationed in California. Aunt Geri told me that the beach they met had so many beach goers that there was only room to spread a towel on the sand. Morrice Dean probably scooted someone out of the way to spread his towel next to hers.


Morrice Dean In Uniform at Lake Ludwig


Mama and Morrice at Lake Ludwig
They had a baby girl shortly afterward and named her Sheral Dean. My Uncle Paul had a baby girl around the same time and named her Paula Kay. Mama was expecting and planned to name her third baby Paul Dean if a boy and Paula Dean if a girl. She always laughed that her name choices were taken by Morrice Dean and Daniel Paul. She opted to name her baby girl after the grandmothers.

When Sheral was about a year old, Morrice Dean and Geri went camping and let me tag along with them. We swam and fished during the day then sat by an open campfire and slept in a tent at night.

It was lots of fun but I got a raging sunburn. Grandma G. soaked brown paper bags in vinegar and placed them on my back and legs. I smelled like pickles but by morning the sunburn's sting had lessened considerably.

It must have been that summer that they took me home from my summertime visit with Grandma G. This was before I-40 and we ran out of gas about 3 AM going up that long haul hill going into Ozark. When it got daylight Morrice Dean walked to a house along the highway to borrow gasoline. Back then, people often kept gas around to give to stranded drivers. There was usually no charge with just a caution to "pay it forward" before there was an actual "pay it forward" campaign.

Mostly what I remember about Sheral Dean was her curly hair, the little bibbed sunsuits she wore, and how Grandma always talked about all the cute things she did.

After Sheral, they had an adorable little boy named Dean. He held a special place in mama's as well as my daddy's heart. I guess it was because he was so danged cute with his almost white hair sticking straight out everywhere. Nah, it was actually that sweet disposition.

While visiting Morrice and Geri once, I saw a grenade lying on the coffee table. Morrice Dean told me not to touch it because it would explode and kill us all. I left wondering why they would have a grenade around their two little children.

It was then that Aunt Geri taught me to drink milk without making a milk mustache. Why did I not know that?

After we were all grown, Mama spent a week or two with Morrice and Geri on their house boat. She talked forever about how much fun she had fishing day after day with them.

Mama and Morrice Dean had a special relationship. They could laugh, joke, and talk long into the night. Of course, I don't remember any serious discussions with my Uncle Morrice. It was always a mischievous banter.

My Last Visit with Morrice Dean
Morrice's response when I asked about things that happened when I was a kid or maybe about him or mama as kids was, "I don't remember that far back."

On my last visit with Morrice Dean, I let him call Daniel Paul from my cell phone. His first question was, "Are you still as ugly as ever?"

I awoke at 6 AM this morning with Morrice Dean on my mind. Knowing that the doctors had given him only days to live, my prayer was that Jesus would cover him with a protective blanket of His perfect love. I asked that He would ease the pain in his body and any discomfort he might have in his mind or soul. 

I had made plans to visit my uncle on Monday. I intended to tell him I loved him and to ask if he saw Mama before I did to tell her I loved her too. 

He slipped away early this morning before I got to make that final visit. He was the last of mama's siblings and one man that will be sorely missed.

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