I don’t know how many people exactly attended Joan’s service, but there was a number, around 20 I suppose of mostly Tingles and their husbands and wives and children. After the services back in the Fellowship Hall of the Church, I tried to mingle but felt like a billiard ball bouncing from this little bit of conversation to the next, struggling mightily the whole time to remember exactly to whom I was speaking, what with fatigue and the ravages of time having wreaked considerable havoc on my memory and other mental capacities.
I remember much more vividly than last year speaking briefly with Uncle Douglas’s wife and his children, a son, whose name now I have forgotten completely, a daughter with her daughter and another child evidently on the way. Douglas’s son works at Clemson College as one of the managers of the dairy farm there, with hundred and fifty cows, not to mention students.
Uncle Douglas died very young, years back, in his mid fifties I think of lung cancer. He took up the habit in the military and he smoked Chesterfields, unfiltered, which was the only way you could ever get that particularly awful brand. Or was it unfiltered Camels?
Uncle Carl was there though it was not sure he would be since he had been in the hospital in Greenville but the day before because his blood pressure had been going up and down erratically. So he was checked in for observation, I guess. He had been out driving somewhere again without his license when his condition was discovered. I told him he should probably stop driving because it could get him in trouble. I asked him how his eyes were and he said, bad and getting worse. I can hardly see a thing. The condition of his eyes though I could tell was not going to keep him from behind the wheel. He has been driving since he was about 13 and he has no intention of stopping till he drops or becomes too weak to turn the wheel.
Uncle Carl is a small man and he has shrunk further every time I see him. And every time I look at him I am startled because he looks so very much like WB but with a very bad overbite and smaller chin.
Aunt Edith, who lives up in Greenville, is very frail. Aunt Adie struggles with a very bad lung conditions, and Carl, well, is Carl, though there is less of him each time. They are all that is left of the original seven. Aunt Mamie died a few years back of cancer, colon cancer, I believe it was and Uncle Neal died sometime in the 80’s of a massive heart attack while sitting alone in his truck.
I felt bouncing around like a billiard ball an awful lot of loss. I know the next time I visit, as I believe I will, in all likelihood there will be still fewer left and my connection to the family, although I continue to cultivate relations with cousins, will become thinner, and more anemic. And so too will my connection to that particular piece of country side become thinner. Every time I go back another landmark has vanished. All that will remain soon of what I remember will be that little church, founded in 1792 and the graveyard beyond it with WB and Joan lying there now side by side.