Posted tagged ‘Aunt Irene’

Surrounded By Aunts, Uncles, and Parents

July 23, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 23, 2018

                               

Yesterday was a bit sobering. After attending my nephew’s wedding on Saturday in Frankfort, Kentucky I altered my route back to my sister’s house in southern Ohio to visit the cemetery where many of my relatives lie in slumbered peace.

This was my first visit to the well-maintained grounds a few miles outside of Paintsville, Kentucky since my dad was laid to rest there last February. It was the first time I had seen the grave marker with both of my parents’ names on it. 

I stood there in silence taking in the depth of their deaths. It reached down and caused an aching in my soul. I let it hurt for a few minutes, tearing up in the reality of what lay before me.

And then I spent some time in the midst of my aunts and uncles who reside, so to speak, in the same area. 

-My Uncle Bernie and Aunt Cynthia at the feet of my parents. My mom and Aunt Cynthia were always trying to outdo one another. It was sisterly competition that took in pie-baking, casserole-making, house decorating, hairstyling, child raising, and opinion-giving. They were like competitors in a game of “life checkers”. To have my mom laying with Aunt Cynthia under her feet would be considered, by my mom, as the final word on the situation. Uncle Bernie and my dad lay beside their wives once again not able to get a word in edgewise! When I think of cigars and pipes I think of my Uncle Bernie. As I stood there looking at his resting place I could hear his laugh which was unique and delightful. And I could almost taste my Aunt Cynthia’s raisin pie, the best there ever was…no matter what my mom said!

-Uncle Junior (Dewey, Jr.) and Aunt Grethel are just a bit to my mom’s left. Aunt Grethel has been there for a while now, succumbing to illness before any of the other aunts and uncles. Uncle Junior didn’t join her until he had pinched my leg a few hundred more times, usually as I sat on my Papaw Helton’s front porch with the men of the family. Uncle Junior made me squirm. My leg even twitched as I now viewed his permanent residence! Now when I see his daughter Annette she intentionally tries to pinch my leg. I’m not sure if it’s to honor her dad’s memory or she just likes to see me squirm again…maybe both!

-Uncle Millard and Aunt Irene (“Rene”) are just a bit to my dad’s right. Millard was a barber. In fact, he kind of resembled Floyd the barber on “The Andy Griffith Show”. I remember he chewed tobacco for a while and kept a spittoon beside his recliner to the chagrin of Aunt Rene. They never had any children, but were guardian parents for my cousin Johnny Carroll for a couple of years or so when he was a toddler. Uncle Doc’s first wife had died and he needed help raising his young son. He couldn’t be a physician and a single parent at the same time. Aunt Rene became Johnny Carroll’s mom. I’ll always remember all the pictures she had throughout the house of the little boy who she mothered. Compassion defined her. Before she passed in 1996 to cancer she gave a check to each of her nieces and nephews and asked us to use the money to do something that we would enjoy. She wanted to be able to see us enjoy it while she was still alive. My family planned a trip to Disney World- air fare, park tickets, staying at The Beach and Yacht Club on the property- with the funds. Aunt Rene was as happy as we were. To this day my kids still remember how awesome that vacation was!

Overseeing this horizontal family gathering are my Papaw and Mamaw Helton. Mamaw was the first to find her place in this cemetery, passing away forty years ago in 1978. She’d be 119 if she was still alive! She could cook up a storm and fry up a chicken fresh, mainly because she had just killed it and plucked the feathers out by their barn. Papaw governed the gathered wisdom and opinions of the front porch uncles. Without a doubt he was the family patriarch in every since of the term. 

And now all of their daughters and one of their three sons are gathered around them. It is a family reunion of a different kind, and yet I can still hear their voices, complete with accents and emotions. 

Emotions define this moment for me, also. It’s okay though, because I’m standing in the midst of lives that were well lived, well thought of, and now eternally well.

Reliving Life

February 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        February 16, 2015

                                                  

The needle of my life pushed past the halfway mark a few years ago…unless I live to be 120! Since my chronological age has a six in front of it I spend more than a few moments each day reliving past moments.

Understand that doesn’t mean that I’m constantly reliving those moments- few and far between- when I was hoisting a trophy in the air…or being honored by the Rotary Club for being named “Citizen of the Year”…no, that was a dream.

I seem to relive conversations, talks that stand out for their depth and discovery. As a pastor I remember counseling sessions where I was as stressed out as the confessors. I remember hospital bedside moments where eternity has been anticipated, regrets have been voiced, and hopes have been attached to grim realities.

As a parent I relive some of our kid’s soccer games…David’s high school team winning the state championship; basketball experiences…seeing Kecia nailing four three pointers in a game; Lizi captaining her college cheer squad at football games.

I also relive the boyfriends and girlfriends that graced our homes…sometimes for a while and other times for a moment. Most of the time these “special friends” got kicked to the curb…in a loving Christian way.

I relive special moments…Carol’s surprise 40th birthday party at Mason First Baptist where we drove up to a dark church building, but Carol noticed Lorraine Demorest’s car sitting out front and immediately thought that Lorraine had been killed by an axe murderer while we was practicing hymns on the organ for that coming Sunday.

I relive moments with many of my relatives who have gone on to glory. I think of my Uncle Junior prone to give my leg a pinch if I wasn’t paying attention; my Uncle Bernie’s pipe and delightful laugh; and my Aunt Irene’s taking me to Dairy Queen in celebration of my sixth birthday and allowing me to order a foot-long hot dog, milk shake, and banana split.

I also relive the dark moments and dreaded phone calls. I remember Dave Hart’s early morning phone call that his step-son Gary McClellan had been killed in a car accident; and my wife’s call while I was in the middle of a Deacon’s meeting to say that David, who was two years old at the time, had fallen from our neighbor’s second-floor landing on to a piece of sheet plywood that, thankfully, was laying on top of the asphalt below.

I relive my daughters’ weddings and the overwhelming emotional experience it was for both Carol and me. I’m tearing up as I relive them again right now.

I relive the waiting room experience at Penrose St. Francis Hospital as Kecia was in labor with her second child…and suddenly hearing the cry of a newborn baby a few yards away…and Reagan has been talking ever since then!

We relive life, learn from our mistakes, long to repeat the unforgettable, thank God for the endearing. Every conversation is a gift, another ornament on the tree of my life. Every sunrise is a blessing, every sunset a reminder of the cycle of God’s attentive care.

I pause several times a day to thank God for what has been, the richness of relationships, and the ability to say “Lord, you have blessed me bountifully!”

The Unsettledness of Settling

December 29, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    December 29, 2014

                                           

Growing up in a southern family living in the Appalachia I was “wised up” by many aunts and uncles about things I was not aware of. Many of those things became suspect in their truth years later. For instance, anything that one of my aunts felt I was not yet old enough for they would attach a Surgeon General’s warning to it: It will stunt your growth! I’m sorry that I did not make a list of all the things that had “growth stunt hormones” as part of their chemical make-up.

My mom was big on “settling.” That meant I needed to let dinner “settle a little bit” before I ran like a wild six year old around the backyard. Settling was like a punishment for a young boy…worse than having to do homework! I would rather have read about Dick, Jane, Sally, and Puff than settle. It never occurred to us in those days that reading and settling could be done at the same time. I could have been multi-tasking before we even knew what it was!

“Settling” was a brief time period where we evidently needed to let the mashed potatoes head to one part of our stomach, green beans to another, and the meat loaf to another. It was like a time of “sorting out” for the food creatures in my tum-tum, like they were in a logjam at one of the intestinal curves. Knowing how much Velveeta Cheese we were consuming in our Kentucky-recipe casseroles there was a better than even chance of that happening!

I’ve never been a good settler. My Aunt Irene would look at my fidgeting body and ask me, “Well…Billy Dean, do you have ants in your pants?” And then she would chuckle, and her chuckle in some odd way had a calming effect on “the ants.”

I remember those days like they were yesterday. They were good days…days when a kid felt fully alive and carefree, when an afternoon was going to be punctuated at some point with a sugar cookie that was carefully “lifted” from the cookie jar when no adults were in the room.

As I age a little less gracefully than fine wine I find myself thinking about the past perhaps even more than the future. I suppose it is an aged form of settling. I sit and remember and am thankful. I sip coffee and think of the aroma of Maxwell House that was always percolating in my parent’s kitchen in the morning.

I settle into a time of writing and get pictures of my dad, sitting at the kitchen table, preparing the Sunday School lesson he was to teach, the carefulness of detail, the importance of imparting scriptural truth to a class of moms and dads that needed some insights to help them travel through another week.

Settling has new meaning for me!

My six year old grandson is a the reincarnation of his granddad. He often has ants in his pants…and the ants have mutated into a more hyper form since I was six. I find myself starting to say to him, “Jesse, let’s settle down a little bit!”

And then I bite my lip, and here the chuckle in my head of my Aunt Irene!