Friday, February 3, 2012

Family Circle: A Funeral and a Birthday Party

My Mom on Her 85th Birthday
A family is a circle of love that surrounds your heart. If you are from a large family, you may not see some of your relatives for years at a time. Unfortunately, it seems like funerals are the prime place to see cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters.

I’ve had two chances to connect with family members in the past week. As tradition would have it, the first family get-together was a funeral. Aunt Mable was Jim’s aunt, and when I called her “Mable” she corrected me. “I’m Aunt Mable,” she said in her gruff tone. I never made that mistake again. After spending more time with Aunt Mable, I realized she played an important role in many lives. In addition to her own large family, she opened her heart and home to nieces and nephews who needed a surrogate mom.

Aunt Mable developed Alzheimer’s during her last years. It was heartbreaking for her children to visit her knowing that some days she would not recognize them.

Her funeral was a lovely celebration of her life, and Aunt Mable would have been pleased to see the hugs shared between family members that had been separated for too long. I had planned to attend the visitation and not stay for the services, but when I sat next to Uncle Jewell and Aunt Mary, I just couldn’t leave. Seeing them brought back memories of many fun weekends together. We went on fishing trips, to bluegrass festivals, or sometimes we had big jam sessions at our house.

I remember one time we went to the Truman Dam Visitors’ Center. Uncle Jewell was clowning around so much that people began to follow him around mistaking him for a paid entertainer.

My Mom, Lula Capps, Playing Music
Funerals are a bittersweet connection with family, but birthday parties are much more upbeat. Saturday, we celebrated my mom’s 85th birthday at an intimate gathering of more than a hundred relatives and close friends.

The party took place at the Ambush, once a favorite honky-tonk in Morgan County. It is past its heyday, but judging from the cars and people crowding into the restaurant and bar, it made a one-night comeback.

With a family the size of ours, not everyone was able to make it. As I looked at my sons and their families, I couldn’t help but compare my childhood to theirs. I’m not even sure how many first cousins I have, but my oldest grandkids have only two first cousins, and my youngest grandkids only three.

During my growing up years, my cousins were my playmates and best friends. We collectively share memories of playing endless games at grandma and grandpa’s house on lazy summer Saturdays. During the evening hours, we chased fireflies while mom and my uncles played guitars and sang country or gospel songs.

At the party, my brother, Jimmy, and a friend took the stage to play music. My mom, true to her normal age-defying behavior, joined my brother for a while to play her guitar and sing with him. Later, two of my Fisher family nephews and their group played. In my mind’s eye, I could see Jim smiling to see his family tradition carried on by a younger generation.

As the evening wore down, my brother announced that they were going to sing one last song. After a variety of country, southern rock, and beer-drinking music, they closed with a gospel song. Voices blended as family members, young and old, sang the praiseful words of “How Great Thou Art.”

As we hugged our farewells, we remained optimistic that our next family gathering would be a happy occasion and goodbye, a temporary break in the family circle.

Copyright February 2012 by L. S. Fisher
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