Seven or eight hours in a car? I’m exhausted … and amazed that my fuel economy went up to thirty-seven miles per gallon. It’s all those highway miles.
Before the next funeral, I need to get my Dad to write and illustrate for me a “Who’s Who” of the extended family. Bob and Lester (“The Rose Man”) I knew, and their wives, a lot of other faces were familiar even if I couldn’t say how they were so. My Dad’s side of the family is very large — of the thirteen or fifteen children my great-grandparents had, most of them settled on the Delmarva Penninsula, and while they’re all dead (Great-Aunt Virginia is the last surviving in-law), most of their children, and many of their grand-children and great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren still live in the area. So there was a fairly healthy turnout of people I in most cases didn’t even recognize, even though they all seemed to know who I was. (You know it’s a large extended family when people knowingly talk about sub-groups like “The Southern Contingent”).
My sister wasn’t able to attend the funeral. The cost of bringing her back from Hawaii are high, and aware of grandma’s condition, Emily visited her every time she was back in Maryland. Fortunatly, my Aunt Peggy (my mom’s older sister) is currently visiting Emily in Hawaii, so with Peggy and of course her roomate Maggie (my mom’s other sister’s daughter), she’s got family support.
My grandmother looked like wax at the viewing. At first, it was beyond creepy. But as I looked at the photos of her (more on this), I realized the wax-her captured many of the features of the younger-her.
(Just for note — a Princess Anne police officer [since when does P.A. have a PD?] served to block traffic on Main Street for the funeral procession. The funeral procession went from the funeral home to the cemetary … one hundred yards away.)
I served as a pallbearer, as I did for my grandfather. After the funeral, across the street at the church where a reception was held, old Cousin Bob found me looking at the cemetary as he and his wife were preparing to leave. Mind you, this isn’t the cemetary where my grandparents are buried — this one is filled with tombstones dated from the early eighteen-hundreds into the mid nineteen hundreds. Two weathered, worn and battered tombstones in particular had my attention — those of my great-grandparents. “I never knew my grandfather,” Bob said, talking about B. Fred Benson (I have no idea what the “B” stood for), who died in 1921 at age sixty. “But I served as a pallbearer for my grandmother.” (That’d be Emma C., who died in 1959). Bob mentioned that he’d always considered that a special honor, clapped me on the back, and left.
I don’t think I’ve ever learned as much about my grandparents as I have at their funeral. I didn’t know that my grandmother’s two older sisters both died when they were ninety-two. Coincidently, my grandmother’s ninety-third birthday would be this May. I don’t know how old her brother was when he died (I wonder…)
There was a bit of controversy about Bob. During the service, the Pastor told a story that occured during the annual “hog slaughter” at the farm, where a certain someone held up a hog’s head in front of the kitchen window and scared the ever loving wits out of my grandmother who was trying to prepare dinner at the time. Both my Dad and Uncle seemed to believe Bob was the responsible party, but he denied it vigorously.
Cousin Dave had a cute little antecdote about running into town in the car with my grandmother and father, and grandma was waiting to cross an intersection, and waiting so long with no traffic apparent that my Dad finally blurted out, “There’s a car coming down from Pocamoke…” and everyone who heard it expressed surprised that he hadn’t gotten slapped for it. (Quickly followed was a description by my father — complete with hand-motions and sound-effects, about how she would shift directly from first gear to third gear … at ten miles an hour … and the resulting jumping and grumbling from the vehicle).
There were numerous photos of both of my grandparents when they were younger. One of them was stamped on a tiny metal plate — both of them in a booth, smiling down at the camera. Numerous others showed my grandmother in a skirt and jacket posed around the farm — almost always the same pose, hands behind her, leaning back, a huge smile on her face. Some of the photos even showed the farmhouse “before” my grandfather’s renovations — I completely didn’t recognize it — it used to be beautiful!
In all of the photos, my grandfather, like myself and the Benson men, is bald and ugly. Well, okay, I’m not bald yet, but that’s just one of those “give it time” things (although my dad has a mostly full head of hair yet). As for my grandmother — what a dish! Hopefully, some day I’ll marry someone just as beautiful.
I’m going to close with one last story that Bob’s wife (what is her name? Seriously, I need a directory) related to me. Many years ago, when they were newly-weds, my grandfather and grandmother took a trip to Colorado to visit distant relations. Ten years ago, one of these cousins, Leslie Benson, visited the eastern shore and my grandparents. He took my grandmother’s hand and told her, “Jean, when you and George came to visit all those years ago, I was sixteen years old and I had the biggest crush on you. You’re still just as beautiful.”