Who is Ratty? That is a short but very complex question. Some of you have wondered about it, and some haven't thought about it at all. Most of us use pseudonyms here on the internet. This one is different though. Ratty is a legend. Ratty was a hero. Today I am Ratty, but I'm not the original. Ratty was my uncle, and Ratty was my best friend.
I said this was a pseudonym for me, and obviously it wasn't his real name either. I use it here on the internet, the same as any of you use yours. It was his for a much more interesting reason. I didn't just take his name for just any old reason. I did it because I guess I'm also the one who gave it to him. This is going to take some explaining, because it's a very different kind of story.
This story starts when I was only a baby. And yes, although it may sound unusual, I do remember back that far. One of my few remaining memories of my favorite uncle was when he used to bring me piles of change. I used to drop the coins down into the cracks of my grandparents' front steps. It was a fun thing for a little kid to do, and he didn't mind at all.
It was around this time that my uncle was drafted into the army, and into one of the worst wars in our country's history. He became a tank driver, which sounds like it would be a pretty safe job in a war, and it was. He used to send me pictures of him standing beside the tank. One of them showed where they had run over a land mine. The explosion created a huge hole in the ground. The tank was mostly undamaged.
One time, when his tank was in for repairs, he volunteered to go on a rescue mission. My grandpa told him never to volunteer for things like that. He did anyway. They went to rescue some wounded soldiers. They were given a kind of truck that was known for not having any protection at all. This time it was the truck that ran over a land mine. My uncle didn't come back alive.
I was only a little older than two years old at this time. I didn't understand the concept of death yet, so my mom decided not to take me to the funeral. There also wasn't any real way to tell me about him yet. It was about this time that I received a visit from somebody. It might sound strange, but the visitor was my uncle.
I still remember that day. My mom and I were in the kitchen, and my mom had to go down to the basement for something. The back door was open, but the outside screen door was locked. I watched as my uncle came up the stairs of the back porch to the door. I told him that I would go get my mom for him, but he said not to do it because he was in a hurry, and the one he came to talk to was me.
I don't remember much of the conversation anymore, I was only a few years old after all. I do remember that he told me he would be back. My mom came up the stairs soon after he left. After she asked me who I was talking to, I told her it was my uncle. He was her younger brother.
To this day, my mom tells me she heard me talking to somebody up there. She had her hands full, and was frantically trying to get upstairs. Even back then, kids shouldn't talk to strangers. I knew that very well, but he was not a stranger. My mom knew I was telling the truth as I saw it, and that I must have known who I was talking to. Besides, there was nobody there anymore, not even outside.
Shortly after this happened I made a new friend. He was a kid that was a little older than me. He told me his name was Ratty. I knew him for a long time, and we played together the way little kids do. There was one time where I was teasing my new little brother with a worm, and Ratty took it from me and covered it up so my brother wouldn't be afraid anymore. I learned a new lesson.
This whole time, my parents just assumed that I had an imaginary friend. Lots of little kids have them at some point. At the same time all of this was happening, my grandma had the idea to put pictures of each family member on one of her living room walls. For my uncle, she used an old picture from when he was a little kid. It had been packed away for several years, and nobody had seen it in all that time.
When we went to visit my grandparents, I immediately noticed that picture. I identified it as my best friend Ratty. I was much too young to have ever seen this picture before. Nobody else knew what to think of this, but they most likely dismissed it as the imagination of a small child. Wouldn't you?
I continued to play with my friend, but through the years his visits became less and less frequent. They finally stopped shortly before I started school. He still occasionally visited me in my dreams, but it just wasn't the same.
Was this all only the imagination of a child? Or was it something much more special? I don't have that answer for you, because I simply don't know. I do know that it was all real to me, and I still remember everything, including his face.
So, who is Ratty? That was Ratty. I use this name to honor my uncle, and my best friend. Thanks Ratty. I'll never forget.