I should be doing something productive right now like washing clothes, but since getting the email this morning that Phil’s cousin Ralph died Sunday, I have been reflecting on the time I knew him.
I first met Ralph when he gave me a ride to visit Phil here in Minneapolis before we were married. I’d say I really got to know him and his wife Grace when they brought us to the apartment the day after we were married.
Ralph was a good-natured, mild-mannered man who lived out his beliefs quietly, accept if you happened to agree with him politically. Phil and I did, so during the dinners once or twice a year with him and Grace, we often talked politics, and Ralph could become quite passionate in his discussion. Despite agreeing with him, I always came away with a new perspective on why I agreed with one party and disagreed with the other. He did more than reenforce our beliefs. I learned from him.
He was a biology professor,. I suspect he wasn’t the popular, charismatic type, but if one was open to learning something from him, one definitely would.
Ralph was relatively quiet, so when he had something to say, we listened. He often couched his observations of the world in dry humor. I wish I could think of an example, but I can’t right now. No doubt as soon as I send this, something will come to mind. It was humor like that — a little dig, a little sarcasm, and perhaps a little self deprecation for good measure.
Ralph and I had something else in common. Phil and Grace are morning people. Ralph and I … not so much.
Probably my favorite side to Ralph was the love he had for our dogs and the love they returned. I can hear him now quietly saying, “Yes, yes, yes, yes,” as he doled out affection for our dogs. If my first Tanner hadn’t died prematurely and if he had been amenable, I would have retired Tanner with Ralph. All of the dogs responded, but perhaps because Tanner was my first, I always felt a special connection between Tanner and Ralph.
When I told Phil of Ralph’s death, his reaction was that it was quick. He just started having cognitive issues last year and had to go to a nursing home early this year or late last year. I can’t quite remember. We didn’t see him with cognitive issues, so my memories will always be of his sharp mind. I can’t help thinking that he would be disturbed by many of the political stories of today, and perhaps God was protecting him from knowing some of this stuff. In a Christmas letter, Grace told us in one of his lucid moments, Ralph said a certain person winning an election was “a bummer.” In the end, Parkinson’s Disease took his cognition and eventually his life.
We won’t be able to attend his funeral, as it’s quite a drive away, but I felt I had to do something to reflect on my knowing him.