Thursday, August 13, 2009

My life has been a blur over the past few weeks. I returned home from Texas at nearly midnight on Saturday, August 1st. Then on Friday morning, I received the news that my Uncle Jack had died. Within a matter of hours, I did laundry, went out and bought a new black dress and shoes, packed, cancelled the mail and newspaper, made hotel reservations in Virginia, and ordered flowers to be sent to my Aunt Frances. Whew!

We were on the road by mid-afternoon on Friday. Our plans were to drive as far as we could and then find a hotel for the night and finish the drive on Saturday. We started looking for a hotel at around 9:30pm only to find they were all full. We later found out it was because the Pittsburgh Steelers were having training camp in the area. How relieved we were to finally find a place to stay just before 11pm.

We were on the road fairly early Saturday morning but after crossing the Bay Bridge were delayed due to bad traffic. We finally arrived at my aunt's house mid-afternoon. My brother, sister-in-law, and two of their three children arrived later from New York. In the evening, my father, sister, and brother-in-law arrived from Orlando. Daddy said that he hadn't seen such a large gathering of our family since the last big event--my mother's funeral nearly 4 years ago.

As much as I love going back to the Eastern Shore, during the past few years it has been with mixed emotions. It brings back memories of my grandparents and of my mother who was born and raised in the little town of Parksley. Our roots on the Eastern Shore go back for nearly 400 years when my grandmother's family arrived in Accomack County. My aunt still lives there. My grandfather's family arrived later, but they have been on the Eastern Shore for several hundred years. In the late 1800's my grandfather was the first baby born in Parksley.

My sister had not been back to Parksley in about 10 years. Over the years, our grandparents' home had fallen into disrepair. On my last visit to the shore, I learned the new owners had fixed it up, and we wanted my sister to see it. It's not exactly the same as it used to be, and we certainly miss the boxwoods that once lined the sidewalk up to the front door and the two benches on either side of the small front porch, but it still brought back memories of the wonderful times we spent there as children. The current house owner let us take some photos. The first one is of my brother, father, sister, and me in front of my grandparents' home.
 The current owner had a sign made stating this was my grandfather's house. We politely let her know that the date wasn’t right, and she could find the right year marked in the attic. My mother would have been so pleased to see the house in its present condition along with the sign.

My uncle's funeral was Sunday afternoon in a packed church. As I was getting dressed, I looked in shock at my new shoes. Yes, this is what I saw!

Can you believe the shoe saleslady put two different shoes in the box? The only other shoes I had with me were white sandals. Luckily I learned that Aunt Frances and I both wear the same shoe size, so she loaned me a pair of appropriate black heels.

My father, a retired Episcopal minister, was asked to give a prayer at the end of the church service. Unbeknownst to any of us, he had asked the pastor if he could also give a few remarks. He started by saying how he and my uncle were brought to the Eastern Shore by the Watts sisters (my mother and aunt) whom they married. He then went on to talk about how special my uncle was.

The pall bearers included 5 of my uncle's 6 grandchildren (the 6th is in Japan and couldn't get back), my brother, and two other family members. One of the grandchildren told me my uncle wanted his grandchildren to carry him as he had once carried them. Uncle Jack is now buried next to his in-laws, my grandparents, in the family plot.

After the interment at the cemetery, we all gathered at my aunt's home. And then, all too soon, we started going our separate ways. Tom and I stayed until Tuesday morning. On our way home we stopped in West Virginia to visit my father's only sister who is in a nursing home.

All of these events have certainly brought home the message of how fleeting life is. Cherish those you love and live each day to the fullest.

Thank you to everyone who left notes or sent cards. These meant so much to me.

I'll return to needlework-related posts in a few days, but meanwhile I leave you with this poem about Family Ties.
Family ties are precious things,
Woven through the years,
Of memories of togetherness,
Of laughter, love and tears.

Family ties are cherished things,
Forged in childhood days,
By love of parents, deep and true,
And sweet familiar ways.

Family ties are treasured things,
And far though we may roam,
The tender bonds with those we love,
Still pull our hearts toward home.

(Virginia Moore)

7 comments:

Sheila said...

I love the house your grandparents had - so pretty and to me, it is how I think of so many American houses :)
Cannot believe about the shoe mix-up!
With sympathy and Hugs xxx

woolwoman said...

Ellen - your sweet post brought tears to my eyes - having spent time with you - I know how much you treasure your family ties and how special they all are to you. Your uncle had a long life and was loved by many - I hope your memories of happy times on the eastern shore will comfort you in your time of sorrow. Hugs Mel

Margaret said...

Hugs to you, Ellen. Sounds like you had an adventure -- those black shoes! My goodness! I know you will miss your uncle. The house of your grandparents is so pretty!

Colleen said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. The shoes made me smile because it was a little humor in the midst of sadness :)

Sandra said...

What a lovely house your Grandparents had and how nice to be able to have a photo taken there. So often, in our busy lives, families don't get together, other than at weddings and funerals and we should all think on that. I love the story if your mismatched shoes and I'm sure you will laugh about that in the months to come.

Karoline said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Ellen

With My Needle said...

My grandparents' home is typical of many on the Eastern Shore....a white two-story frame house.

I can't remember when my grandfather sold the house. I'm guessing that it was around 1983 or 1984. He was still living there in 1981 when I went for his 90th birthday. Several years after that he sold the house and moved into a retirement home.

There have been several owners of the house since then. One of the owners ripped out all of the bushes out front and the boxwood that lined the front walkway. He also painted the house some very garrish colors--not at all befitting.

I am so pleased that the young family that lives there now is trying to restore the outside of the house.

I've heard that the inside of the house has changed greatly. True, it greatly needed updating. Little had been done there since 1967 when my grandmother died.

Yes, Coleen and Sandra, one day the shoe "episode" will bring some laughs...it is too fresh now for that to happen right now.

Wednesday night when I got home, I went back to the shoe store and now have a matching pair of black heels.