heaven’s just too far away

So, it’s time to plan for the week in Cielo (heaven) next January, and I’m agonizing over this decision, again. I was supposed to go last June, but my summer medical mystery tour kept me home. (Gee, I should write that blog post, seeing as the adventure is on-going.) The trip is relatively expensive, my Baby Girl just got her heart broken over a potential trip to the British Isles next summer, and I really want to take her somewhere for her 18th birthday. New York is high on the list, again.

Heaven always seems to be just out of reach, a little too far away.

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A couple of Saturdays ago we had a family reunion in the Gap. The descendents of David Ed and Lena Pearl gathered on the mountain to reconnect and reflect. Thanks to Alecto, Lena Pearl’s spirit was allowed to return from her walkabout in CT. (Alecto kidnapped Pearl last September when she took a nap in the Gap and stumbled upon Pearl in the parking lot of the motel. I think Grandma Pearl was concerned about Alecto’s traveling chicken.)

Anyway, this is Ed and Pearl:

This picture was taken around 1978. Ed passed away in 1979; I was a senior in high school. Pearl was about 75 in this picture; Ed about 80, I think.

This is their nuclear family:

From left to right, there’s the youngest son, HB; oldest daughter, OC, Pearl, Ed, and my grandfather, WC. We’ve lost them all except the oldest daughter, who is now 90 years old herself, and still driving.

Pearl lived to be 100 years old. We had a big party for her birthday, and one week later she passed away quietly, in her sleep, as she had wanted. She outlived her husband and three of her children (they had a stillborn son as well). She also outlived one of her grandchildren. I can’t begin to comprehend what life was like for her, how much the world changed in the hundred years she was here. She rarely ventured off the mountain, which makes her  impromptu escape to CT last year even more intriguing. She saw the ocean for the first time when she was 94, and she told me once that the only thing she regretted was that she never learned to drive.

This is my grandpa WC, my grandma, and my mom:

Betcha can’t guess when this was taken……NOT.

WWII: he wouldn’t talk about it to anyone. Except for my father-in-law, who also served during the war. The two of them met at a birthday party for hubby when he turned 30. They sat together under a tree in my parent’s back yard and chatted for hours, about the war. After they died we found letters they had written to their families back home.  For two men who didn’t talk much, they both sure had a lot to say when they put pen to paper.

My grandfather was a farmer, a furniture salesman, and a grocer like his father before him.  We always called Grandpa WC’s store the “fruit stand” because he would drive from his home in Virginia down to South Carolina every week to buy fresh fruit. There’s another store now where his store used to be, but there will never be another “fruit stand” there. He was also a butcher who had a reputation all around for the quality of his meat products. The first time I met Hubby’s oldest brother and his wife, we played the “six degrees of separation” thing (before it was called that) and I discovered that my future brother-in-law would drive 45 miles to buy steak from my grandfather. Small world and all that.

After the reunion we drove by the old place, where my great-grandpa Ed’s store was. It’s been torn down since I was in the Gap last. Seeing that empty place where his store used to be punched a great big empty hole in my gut. It’s still oozing.

This is Pearl’s house:


It’s still there, but it’s showing it’s age these days. The barn and outbuildings are gone now. There were two big rocks on either side of the front steps. When we were kids we used to jump off those rocks out into the yard. We were such daredevils. There’s a creek that runs behind the house where we used to play, trying to catch crawdads. And there was a milk can cooler in the front yard, fed from the creek I suppose. Grandpa Ed was forever warning us to stay away from it because we might fall in and get hurt.

See that side porch there? This is it:

Pearl had a way with plants, could grow anything. So did her son, my grandpa WC. That porch was our playground, our school-where we learned to shell peas and snap beans, to knit and crochet and mend, our courting place-sharing the swing with the cute cousins who came to visit. Hey, this is the South. Dating cousins is allowed, not that we ever did. We just shared the swing and wondered what it was like to be older than our 10 or 11 or 12 years, and to have a “real” boyfriend.

This is the five generations, 1962:

See that toddler there, the curly-haired, tow-headed blonde with the pigeon toes? That’s me.

And those are the people that made me.

  • Farmers and farmers’ wives
  • Business owners
  • Part-time Independent Baptist preachers
  • Quiltmakers, knitters, seamstresses
  • Mill workers
  • Butchers
  • Secretaries
  • Salesmen
  • Systems analysts who never studied computer science in school, but excelled in the industry none the less

I am the sum total of these people, these lives. They have given me so much life experience that my own children may never know. There are things that I’ve tried to pass on, but at 21 and 17, my children aren’t that much more interested in their family history than I was at their ages.

Baby Girl and I were driving somewhere the other day. She has always loved country music. I was forced into it, by her, and wound up loving it as much as she does. Anyway, this song came on the radio. I was driving. When I heard the words “fruit stand”, the sobbing commenced. What are these tears? Sadness for the lives that are no more? The way of life that is becoming more and more rare, and more and more precious? The joy of knowing that kind of life, and that kind of love, or of knowing that, someday, Heaven won’t be that far away, and hopefully that back porch will be there for us to enjoy again?

I think it is all of those things, and more.

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4 responses to “heaven’s just too far away

  1. I don’t know how the hell she got out of my car.

  2. Well, she knew her presence was expected at the reunion, and when she knows she wants or needs to do something, she’ll do it come hell or high water. For instance, when the grandkids told her that walking across the bridge to get to her garden was too dangerous, so put a couple of planks, OLD planks, across the creek and walked over them instead.

    She got her way in the end, until said grandkids decided she shouldn’t (was no longer allowed) to live in her own house.

  3. I absolutely love this and remember all of these things. We use to spend every Sunday afternoon at Grandpa Ed’s and Grandma Pearl’s. I so enjoyed and loved those days and the days you and I use to share there and the summers I would get to come spend some time with you and your mom and dad.
    All of these people I will never forget! They all were a part of my life also. I could never forget going to the Gap because to me it was some how magical! Love ya always! Anita

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