His given name was Clifford. I don’t remember ever referring to him as “Clifford” nor did I ever hear my mother or any of the other siblings call him that. We all called him “Bye”, pronounced “By-ee.” What that name means, I do not know other than they were from Louisiana and my Uncle Fred couldn’t talk plain. I’ve heard it said that was how he said “Brother.” I don’t know. But, he was my Uncle Bye.
Bye was a handful as a little kid. He was the youngest boy in the family although two more kids came after him. Family legend has it that he was so bad about running off and staying gone and that he drove my grandmother so crazy with this habit that she would put a dress on him so he wouldn’t run off. He would then hide under the house for the day. (This was Louisiana. The older houses didn’t have foundations.)
Bye lied about his age and enlisted in the Navy when he was 16 or 17. I don’t know why he did this, but, my guess is that after Pearl Harbor, which would have been when he was about 16 or 17, might have inspired him to do the Patriotic thing.
Bye served in the Pacific and apparently the things he experienced and witnessed during his time of service changed him in such a profound way, he spent the rest of his life battling some serious demons. I also suspect the death of the oldest brother in the war had a huge impact on him as well.
His main demon was alcohol. He was one of those guys that alcohol made very mean. He had a lovely wife at one time and two adorable little boys. Sadly, his drinking and I suspect abuse was to blame for him losing his wife and kids. He was never part of his children’s lives again. I’ve never even met his two sons and my mother hasn’t seen them since they were about the age of #2. They would be in their late 50′s or 60′s now.
My mother has never been able to bring herself to admit that he more than likely abused his wife. She took off and left the state with his children. I think she ran for her life. I believe he was probably abusive because I was around him when he was drinking and he was not a pleasant drunk. He could say some funny things at first, but, he would always end up slamming somebody (whoever was around) and say mean, hurtful things, even to us kids. I can only imagine how he would’ve treated those closest to him.
Even though thoughts of my Uncle Bye make me sad, I do have funny memories of him, even though they usually involved his various states of inebriation. In spite of his rampant alcoholism, he always worked and would never be under the influence when he worked. He did floors. Wood floors. I’ve often wished I had him here to do some wood floors for me. He was good at heart…he just desperately needed to numb himself so as not to remember being on the naval ship that had been bombed and looking feverishly for his buddy, only to find that he was standing on his young friend’s dead body.
One thing I will never forget about Bye was in 1986 when my Uncle Jack died. Bye disappeared after the funeral. Jack was his closest pal and the only family he had close by. He was devastated by his death. My Uncle Fred and my Aunt Pat knew where he was and decided they were going to march into The Shamrock, his favorite watering hole, and get him out of there and settle this drinking thing once and for all. He looked at them and said “You deal with this your way and I’ll deal with it MY way.”
I’ve always said that three of my four uncles physically survived World War II, but, Bye did not survive emotionally. Bye died in 1993 of jaw cancer. All those Pall Mall cigarettes he smoked most of his life caught up with him.
This is how I most remember my uncles…leaning up against a vehicle, smoking and drinking beer and shooting the bull. I’m so glad my Dad had the good sense to snap this picture of them in 1975. Warhorses they were (one still is at 85 years young) and most definitely heroes.