Friday, July 11, 2008

Aunt Callie

I recently attended her funeral. She was 94. I grew up seeing her once or twice a year. I was lucky to have several "grandmothers" growing up. She was one of them. I remember a sweet, doting woman who was very kind and was always playing with the children.

Her service was in the small, southeast Texas town where she lived. I traveled there with an aunt and uncle, and a cousin who all live near me. Fun road trip, even considering the circumstances. My Uncle Johnny is a great storyteller. I've become more of a fan of family stories since my father passed away. I have some very interesting characters in my family! Maybe I'll share stories at a later time. I keep this entry about Aunt Callie.

The funeral was long and boring...all one hour and 20 minutes of it. There were a couple of funny moments, though. The service began with a recording of Whitney Houston's, "I Will Always Love You." This is a strange choice in and of itself. But the version that was chosen was the dance mix...4 and a half minutes long. Seriously. I heard some electronic sounds as the music started, I thought they pressed the wrong button! But it kept playing! NOT the right song for Aunt Callie. I'm not sure what my fmaily was thinking! The other funny part was watching her son, Jimmy, spit tobacco in his little cup during the whole service. He was sitting on the front row. Welcome to Devers, TX!

There was another interesting part of the service; one I had never seen before. In the program for the service, it was listed as the "Naming Ceremony." It was the reading of all the names of her children, sister/brother, grandchildren, etc. This is done at every I've funeral been to, though usually at the beginning. But there was something different about that way it was framed as the "Naming Ceremony." It just seemed to take the ordinary out of telling who her family is. For the 1st time in an hour and 15 minutes, I was paying attention. The sermon before this was stupid...another moment of manipulating people to "get them into heaven." (in my humble opinion). The song was stupid. The woman who tried to sing "Amazing Grace"...well, she was sweet. It just felt like the 1st real moment of the service. It was a moment honoring her and her legacy. I felt thankful and asked for God's blessing on the family. I was still in this space as we went to the graveside. It's a very small cemetary. Beautiful, though. I love reading grave stones and the dates. For me, there is always a deep reverence and serentity at cemetaries. I'm not quite sure why the "Naming" struck me so strongly. I thought of the book of Hebrews that speaks of the "great cloud of witnesses that surround us." The author was writing of the people of faith that have long since passed on. I think it's important to remember and honor those who have passed on. Maybe at the Aunt Callie's service I was also reminded of the importance of those who carry on a legacy today. Perhaps a reminder to me that our lives here are not lived in a vacuum. We live in communities of many different kinds. We need others. As God said, "It is not good that man should be alone." Sometimes as I write it helps me work out my own struggles; I think this is happening even in this moment. When life gets hard or overwhelming (as it is right now), I tend to isolate. I'm blessed to have so, so many friends. I'm a very rich girl. And yet I find myself choosing to deal with life all by myself at times. Isn't it amazing how gently God comes in to get our attention; even in the most unsuspecting of times and places. So, maybe today God is gently reminding me (home alone, on the computer)...encouraging live my life, the easy and the hard, in the company of others.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Billy Wayne

That's what his family called him. Just "daddy" to me. Today would be his 64th birthday. I've been pretty sentimental about certain days since he passed away in 2004. I do something special, or that helps me remember him on Father's Day, his birthday, and even the day he passed away. I love to cook, so I always cook some of the foods he really liked. On Father's Day, I carry an old Bible of his. It's one his parents gave him on his 12th birthday. King James version, of course. It's pretty old and beat up now, but cool to have it. Today, I'll think I'll watch a John Wayne classic, True Grit. He was a huge John Wayne fan. I remember the night it was announced that he had died. My father promptly said, "Well, it's time to the turn the TV off." I've never been a huge fan of Western movies, but it will be good today.

Daddy was a good man. One of those Texas "good ole boys." A rare and dying breed, I think. He was one of the hardest working men I've ever known. (I wish I had the work ethic!) And he would do anything for just about anyone. I feel like I knew 2 different men growing up, though. When I was a kid, I remember a very disconnected, quiet, isolated man. I remember him coming home from work everyday and he followed the same routine: eat dinner (no one talked), sit in his brown vinyl recliner and watch TV (no one talked) and then go to bed around 9:30 or so. The only other variable was that he and my mother fought constantly...that was about the only "talking" that ever happened. They divorced when I was 12. Something good happened for him as a result of that. He became an engaged, humous guy, and became intensely involved in our church. During my childhood, he rarely went to church. Something in him was tranformed, and it was very cool to watch. In the weeks prior to his death, we talked quite a bit about his marriage to my mother. It was a pretty miserable situation. My mother is an alcoholic and I think there are (or were) other mental disorders as well. I have my own difficult memories from her, but perhaps it was even more difficult as a spouse. Certainly daddy had his part in their problems. I have no intention of painting him as a saint or even a victim. As Al-Anon states, alcoholism is a family disease. It's just hard on everybody.

Hmmm, I had no idea where I was going with this entry! But welcome to my family stories! Mostly, I'm taking the time to remember a good man and give honor to my daddy.

P.S.- I'm not cooking today. I hang out with our teenagers from church every Wednesday. But! Tomorrow's menu: chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans (stewed with bacon all day till they practically disintegrate!) and, of course, peach cobbler.