Archive for September, 2006

A Boy Called Bud


Ralph and Nannie Underwood had five children. My father – Ralph Jr. – and his sister – Margie – are gone. Three brothers – Robert, Jack, Harry – remain.

At the annual Underwood family reunion, after everyone has eaten, one of the brothers calls for everyone’s attention so that someone from each of the families can fill in everyone else on the happenings in that branch during the past year.

Uncle Robert and his wife – who is also named Margie – celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a little while back. So, at this year’s reunion, after the reports from family members,Uncle Harry invited everyone to tell stories about Robert and Margie.

Harry told one connected to Robert’s service as a tail gunner on a B-17 during World War II. With others adding embellishments, my mother told the one about the time that Robert dealt with some rock throwers who got smart with him after he asked them to stop by going off to buy the rental house they were living in and coming back to inform them that he was their new landlord.

Their son, Bob, elicited a collective “ooohhhh” from family members when he said that he had a story about when his mother was going through “the change.”

One day, he said, he opened to the front door of his parents’ house and heard cabinet doors banging in the kitchen. Uh-oh, he thought. As he backed down the hallway, he realized that he was about to enter a bedroom from which there would be no escape. So he scooted down into the basement.

There, sitting in a dark corner, he saw someone. It was hard to make out for sure who it was so he said, “Dad, is that you?”

“Yes, Bud, it’s me.”

“What are you doing down here?”

“I’ve been down here a month,” Robert said.

Bob might say that his story was much funnier when he told it, and he would be right. Bob is a first-rate storyteller, and his inflections, quick-laugh asides and impeccable pacing cannot be captured in print.

Listening to him and the others tell their stories made me think about the gifts that come down to us.My grandfather was a fine storyteller. He passed a love for telling stories and the skills needed to do it on to his children, and they, in turn, passed them on to their children.

The nickname “Bud” also caught my attention. When I was growing up, my father would sometimes call me Bud. For some reason, the way he said it always made me feel good. Without thinking about it, I picked up the habit of calling His Dogness Bud sometimes. And, after Doobins came into my life, I started calling him Bud when I’m feeling particularly warm toward him.

I had never really thought about where my father might have picked up the nickname. But discovering that Robert sometimes calls his son, Bud, made me think that perhaps it came from their father and that my father passed it on because it made him feel good, too.

I could, of course, ask Robert, Harry or Jack and find out the real answer. But why take a chance of wrecking it? For the moment, I prefer to hold on to the image of a little packet of tender feeling called Bud traveling down through time.

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