Today would have been J. D. Rainbolt’s 101st birthday. Happy birthday, Dad. I miss you.
The article below originally ran in the Lewisville Leader in October, 1998 about finding lost friends. Some of the references are dated. Remember, in 1998 there was a marginal internet. Nobody had ever heard of Google. In those days, my preferred search engine was ‘Ask Jeeves.”
Comrades in Arms
I’m a Baby Boomer; a daughter of the Greatest Generation. Growing up, I listened transfixed as my father told me of his adventures as a communications scout in the World War II. The stories were so real I could feel the snowy winters of France, I could see Generals Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton as they all met at headquarters. I could smell the sickly stench of boxcars burning as Dad’s jeep approached the concentration camp near Landsberg, Germany. Dad and his driver were the first people to find the prison after the Germans had fled. The gates had been broken open and starving Jewish women greeted their American liberators with gifts of cookies.
In many of his tales, he spoke of his young driver, Clifford Linley.
“I trained him,” Dad said of his driver. “I raised him from a private. He drove for me for over a year.”
In a way, I felt like I knew Linley even though I had never met actually met him. He got Dad to meetings on time. They drank together. They were comrades in arms,
Recently, when my dad spoke of the war, he mentioned that he never knew what happened to his driver after Dad assumed a new command in May, 1945. Wistfully, he said he wished he could get in touch with Linley.
I made a mental note and promised myself that someday I would try to track Linley down. A number of times I would watch videos of Dad telling his stories and I would remember the promise to myself. Soon, I’ll do it soon.
Only a day after I had last viewed the video, my editor handed me the assignment to write about people who have tracked down lost loved ones. I began interviewing Mary Pastor, William Tittle and Joyce Austin and became so inspired, I knew the time had finally come to fulfill my promise.
The Search for Linley
Mom thought his name was “Clifton Lindley.” And after an hour searching the internet, I had gotten nowhere. Surprising Dad was no longer an option if I wanted to achieve any degree of success. Although I didn’t want to get his hope up, I confessed my plan to Dad up and got a little more information. I had misspelled the last name and learned that he came from Alabama. Back to the world-wide web. This time I found a host of Linleys listed in his native state. Although there weren’t any Clif or Cliftons listed, I picked out a man whose first name started with C. Why? Why not?
I explained to the lady at the other end that I was looking for one of my Dad’s war buddies. She said she didn’t know him and hung up on me. I have a feeling she must have gotten other strange calls prior to mine. I tried another C. Linley.
This one knew Clifford Linley; he was Linley’s second cousin. I couldn’t believe it. Yes, his cousin served in Europe during the war, in a motor pool. He lives in Georgia. And even though this man didn’t know how to reach him directly, he gave me the phone number for Linley’s sister. She was delighted to hear from me; after all, she heard many of the same stories. She gave me his address and number and before I could dial the it, she had phoned him to introduce me.
Lt. Col. Linley greeted my call with true southern hospitality. I told him who I was and about some of the memories my dad had shared. He sounded almost speechless. A Rainbolt out of the blue, literally. He said also had fond memories of their experiences. Linley only lives a few hours away from my in-laws in Georgia and he invited me to come see him next time I visit them. I can’t wait to hear the same stories I heard while sitting at Dad’s feet, this time from the point of view of an 18 year old driver turned Lieutenant Colonel rather than a 25 year old lieutenant.
I told him how he could reach Col. Rainbolt.
Hanging up the receiver I could barely contain my excitement. I must have felt the same way Santa Claus feels when he leaves a kid’s first bicycle.
I could only imagine the surprise Dad would finally experience when he answers the phone and hears his old war buddy exclaim, “This is Lt. Col. Clifford Linley.” I wished I could be there to hear the excitement in their voices as they recall familiar tales and share new ones.
About 20 minutes later, Dad called. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “I just can’t believe it!” he kept repeating. “You just don’t know what this means to me.”
I think I did.
He told me that every night when the commercial ran on television about finding lost persons, he toyed with the idea of calling them to find Linley. It was something he, too, would do “someday.”
But, in all things that matter most to us, we must make the decision that someday is today. I never dreamed that a simple assignment, would make someday—now.
As I watch the lost loved one commercial on television, I can’t help but smile. Tonight, Dad feels a little more complete and I’ve been able to give him a priceless gift thanks to an ordinary assignment. And also thanks to God for teaching this chronic procrastinator that today is as close as I’m going to get to “someday.”
A final note
Sadly the two old soldiers never got their earthly reunion. Col. Linley invited me to visit him on my next trip to Georgia. Unfortunately, by the time our November visit came around, he was not well enough to see visitors. I learned that he passed away not long afterward. Dad died in February 2014. After Dad’s passing I envisioned the two old warriors sitting in one of Heaven’s watering holes trading stories.
Is there anyone who you’d like to contact? Tell me about it in the comments below.
About Dusty Rainbolt
Author Dusty Rainbolt is an award-winning veterinary journalist according to her answering machine. She is an associate certified cat behavior consultant and member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, as well as past president of the Cat Writers’ Association. Her books, columns, reviews and articles have been honored with more than 50 writing awards including three-time recipient of Friskies Writer of the Year. Her just-released award-winning cat behavior book, Cat Scene Investigator: Solve Your Cat’s Litter Box Mystery, is the consummate guide for dealing with a cat who sidesteps his/her appointed toilet. CSI, which provides science-based methods for determining the medical or behavioral causes of feline inappropriate elimination, teaches cat parents to view their cat’s litter box avoidance through the eyes of a detective to determine the cause and, ultimately, the remedy.