Elegy for My Great-Uncle Ralph Adams

You can’t talk about Ralph without talking about Marie.  When I learned of Ralph’s death, my first thought was, “God, I hope he can be with Marie now.”  I have never hoped for a heaven more than in that moment, because for the past ten years, all Ralph wanted was to die.  He would tell anyone that talked to him for five minutes:  “I want to die.  I want to be with Marie again.”


Marie and Ralph met in France on the Champs Elysees during his time in the service.  Marie had walked to Paris from Brittany during World War 2.  She was a teenager who feared for her life while living on the coastline of France, so she took to the road on foot, walking from the edge of France to the center.


He brought her to the United States, a place she always found to be gruff.  A place where only her cooking was worth eating.  A place that saw her husband be gravely maimed in a work accident.  A place where she learned she would never have children.  A place where she went dancing with Ralph on the weekends.  A place where she enchanted her grand-niece, Marie’s thick French accent introducing me to the language I now so love and teach.  A place where she would eventually succumb to dementia, dying in her own home, speaking her mother-tongue Bretagne for her last months.  A place where she died with no one understanding her words.  A place where she was adored and cared for by Ralph until her last breath.


The frame of Ralph’s life is riddled with sadness.  Born the last of nine children to a might-as-well-have-been-single-mother Hattie and a man the children only remembered as a stranger, Ralph grew up poor and loved so much that he was put into a boys’ home.  Separated from his siblings, Ralph managed to never lose the impishness of a last child of a brood.  His brothers would grow up to earn Purple Hearts and badges in alcoholism and depression.  Ralph seemed to be immune to his DNA.  The end frames of his life, the last twelve years, brought him a deep sadness, a wish to die, as if his DNA finally caught up to him in a fury.  The middle years, the Marie years, were bliss to hear him tell it.


Ralph died on Saturday.  My great-uncle, the last of the Adams clan, left earth.  He refused a memorial. He died without me knowing he had gone into hospice; the last time I saw him was Christmas Eve when I quickly dropped a meal at his door and gave him a peck on his whiskered, gaunt cheek.  We were late for church, so I didn’t get Ev out of the car.  She waved from her car seat.  I think I knew it might be a last time.  He was so thin, so much a wraith already.


It seems a sin to not celebrate a man’s life after he dies.  But in so many ways he was already gone when Marie left.  I hope they are dancing in a heaven I don’t always believe in but today I pray is real.



  1. Ahhhh… you did well by him, Colleen … and I hope they are together again too. ❤

    1. Thank you for reading!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Red Earth

A Place of Present, Past and Future Imprints

The Female Reflection

A blog of opinon based responses to female literature & film

Standardized Testing

How testing harms children

Lay's Thoughts

Feminist Theory


A blog about how to navigate feminism

Reflections for Educators

A website for using the Reflections series in the classroom

Small Town Feminist

Thoughts and comments from a college feminist living in a small town.

2016 Presidential Election: Women's and Gender Issues

"Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance." — Kofi Annan

Rise Up Doylestown!

We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

KU Postcolonial Theory and Texts: Spring 2017

“Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. ... Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.” Edwidge Danticat

Site Title

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou

Her Road Less Traveled

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou

Teaching Acceptance

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Gloria Steinem

Anne Imschwei blog

If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears however measured or far away." Thoreau

Jinn's Blog

“There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination, as I try to do.” ― Anaïs Nin

A Postcolonial Something

"Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate." -Edward Said

PostColonial Minds

An exploration of ongoing struggles

Heather's Post-Colonialism Page

I have no idea what I am doing, and that's ok.

LGBT Non-Profit Internship

WGS 390: Internship in Women's and Gender Studies

%d bloggers like this: