I recently spent most of a Saturday celebrating my cousin June’s 85th birthday at her party in Blythewood, hosted by her three daughters, Beverly, Robin and Kim (my first cousins once removed, I’ve learned), in the Fellowship Hall at their church.
Two of my sisters were there, along with four more cousins, and a number of June’s friends. After the delicious luncheon, we all had the opportunity to paint a small canvas, led step-by-step by an art teacher. My tree looks weird, and I didn’t follow instructions well, but I enjoyed the time spent with my sisters and cousins.
After the party broke up and we helped clean up, several of us went back to June’s house to continue our visit.
June still lives in the house she and her late husband built when they were newly married, down the hill from “Rock Haven,” the house in which she grew up. Her father, my Uncle C.D., bought some acreage there decades ago and built a home with large stones he dug up from the fields.
June’s nephew still lives there with his family, and her brother Douglas lives in a smaller place across the way.
As a child, I spent many a fun day there in the country. My dad and June’s mom (my Aunt Gwen) were brother and sister, so we visited often. The younger kids – Bev, Robin, Kim, my brother, sister and I – played together, while the older folks talked.
During our visit, we talked a lot about our growing up years and memories of our parents, but we also chatted about our current families, jobs and hobbies. It was fun to reminisce about the “old days,” when we had acres and acres of yard to play in, but riding in the back of Uncle C.D.’s pickup through the cow pasture was more fun.
My sister Shirley and I stayed … and stayed … and stayed, enjoying the time with our cousins, whom we don’t see too often, until someone supposed it was time to eat again. So, we brought out all the leftover party food. It was just as good as it had been 7 hours earlier.
The talking and laughing continued until we saw that it was after 9 p.m. and time to go home. I was staying the night at Shirley’s house on the other side of Columbia, and we had a half-hour drive ahead.
As I drove, I replayed some of the day’s conversations in my head. There was a lot of love coursing through our chatter.
Later that night, as I lay down to sleep in my sister’s guest room, I smelled a light scent of our father. Shirley had kept Mom and Dad’s bedroom furniture, and I was on his side of the bed.
I have slept there a number of times over the years and never noticed it, but his aroma must have been in the mattress. It was suddenly all around me, strangely real and powerful. A flood of memories spilled over me all at once, like a movie on fast forward.
I could see him and Mom, in that very bed, waking up on a lazy Saturday morning to three kids wanting breakfast. Then he was playing horseshoes in the backyard and teaching me to drive and laughing at a dumb joke and pushing me on the swing and walking, with Mom, beside me on the beach at my wedding.
He was with me. It might have been because his birthday was just six days prior, having fallen on Father’s Day as it does every few years, and I had thought about him a lot that day. It might have been because of that day’s activities with his closest sister’s children and grandchildren.
Whatever the impetus, it was sweet and comforting, and I smiled as I drifted off to sleep.