As I write this, I’m reflecting on a small family gathering we attended this past Fourth of July Weekend. The Fourth came on Thursday this year (2019), however, many folks participated in activities that extended throughout the following weekend. There have been two events that have occurred over the last year that have caused me to take much more to heart family. My mother died a year ago two days after the Fourth of July, after a thirteen-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. Shortly afterwards, her sister-in-law, who also fought a battle with Alzheimer’s died in September of last year. Following these two deaths, there is but one survivor of my mother’s generation from her nuclear family. That one survivor is my yet mentally alert and lovely Aunt Mary. She was at the gathering, though a bit restricted in movement due to her arthritis and some edema in her legs.
We live in Little Rock, Arkansas. The gathering was in Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is about a two-hour drive. It was held at my cousin Junior’s place. Junior, who’s name is Clarence Jeffrey is the son of my mother’s late brother Clarence Jeffrey, Senior. (There are a ton of names I could mention in this piece; however, I won’t mention any more from this point, since I’m not sure how everyone would feel about me using their names.) I will use some of their images though. You must get some sense of the flavor of the event.
It was a typical, hot Arkansas day for this gathering. It had rained the day before, so there was a thick layer of humidity blanketing each of us. You could simply stand, and the sweat would come with little to no effort. Most of us disregarded the discomfort because of the joy of simply being there with family. I particularly enjoyed watching the young ones play, as if the climatic conditions didn’t matter. The fact that my cousin has a large spread on the edge of town, with large trees under which he had setup tables and chairs, was nice for visiting. I forgo the temptation to take an air conditioning break; however, some did. I found it interesting that some who went inside to escape the heat and humidity were of the generation after mine. I guess they had no remembrance in their DNA of the times my generation had lived through hot summers with no air conditioning in ramshackle houses, down dusty roads in the country. Most of my generation has done a fair job of providing our children with comforts of life not that widespread during the times of Jim Crow.
I could ramble on and on about how much I enjoyed the gathering of family and being emotionally affected by precious it is to experience events like this, but I won’t. I was especially moved by realizing that my mom’s generation is in the last stages of the natural erasure that all generations suffer. It’s as if you look up one day and none of them is around anymore. You have but memories of them and the lessons they shared to help guide you through the same process of natural erasure. A few of my cousins and I agreed that we would do more of this, and that we would be more deliberate in making it happen. God forbid we are naturally erased before the generations after us get a chance to experience family gatherings like this one. Family: It doesn’t get any better!
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.