My grandfather passed away last Tuesday. He was 84 and had been ill for a while so his passing was not unexpected. In fact, I’m relieved that his suffering has come to an end. He lived in North Carolina while my brothers and I live in Texas. In order to make the funeral we loaded up in one car and drove it straight through.
D and I live in Houston, so the journey started out at 5am on Wednesday with a 4 hour drive to Dallas to pick up J. We left Dallas at 9a and drove straight through to Hickory, NC at 2:45a Thursday morning. It was hell.
As a rule my brother’s and I get a long pretty well. J tends to take charge, D gets stressed out pretty easy so it’s kind of touch and go with him and I modulate between bossy and just standing back and letting them figure it out. We were getting along great until Mom called and told us that there were no hotels in Morganton so we should turn around and go home. My brothers would sleep in the truck if they had to, and told her so. I suggested we just try Hickory, which is less than 30 minutes away. My Mom, who’s been in TX for 32 years, just like me was searching for hotels in crazy out of the way places so my cousin C, who travels for a living decided to just do what she does best and book us rooms in Hickory. Well Mom was TICKED that C went over her head and just got it done and spend the rest of the night trying to trump C by booking us a hotel somewhere else. We told her we were going to the hotel C booked for us and that was that. She still called one of us every 15 minutes trying to get her way. J handles Mom the best of the three of us so D and I conveniently had our cell phone batteries die at the exact same time. Some coincidence huh? Anyway, my brothers and I were tired and got a little testy with one another at that point – usually when Mom called to rile us up – but we soldiered through that too. We got to the hotel, checked in and passed out.
When I woke up in the hotel that morning, it was the first time since April that I haven’t woken up completely hot and sweaty. The temps were in the 60s and overcast. I was in heaven. When I left Houston it was in the 80s at 4am and so sticky I couldn’t breathe. I kid you not, it’s so hot and humid here that from May to November I can’t dry my hair. If I use a dryer on it I just sweat and it’s nasty so I pull it back in a clip and leave it wet. But in NC, the weather was fantabulous! I got in the shower and washed all the sticky Houston swamp water off me. My hair dried easily afterwards and I felt fabulous.
After that it was time to face the family. My Mom was still irked with us but she hid it well. Seeing the rest of the family was pure awesome sauce. I don’t have any extended family here in Houston – just parents and brothers. All the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc are back in NC and TN and I don’t get to see them much. So catching up with them reminded me of summers spent in NC as a child and made me remember how much I’d enjoyed those days.
My Grandfather’s visitation was 5-7 on Thursday night. I saw some of the kids I’d played with during the summers there in NC. They’re all grown up now and have families of their own now, but they walked up and hugged me like I was family they saw all the time. It was like I never left. I’ve never formed bonds like that with anyone here. The kids that I grew up with in Houston were mean little bastards that I made it a point to lose touch with as quickly as I could. I realized then, that I felt like I’d returned home. For the first time I felt like that was where I needed to be. We went and had a huge family dinner afterwards and it was so much fun being with my people again, even considering the reason for the occasion.
The next day we all met at my grandfather’s house where the local Methodist church brought us lunch. I’m not religious but I could get into the community aspect of belonging to a church. We ate outside because it was possible to do so. Here in the sweltering inferno of Houston, eating outside is not exactly practical.
It got me to thinking that if I were to pass, no one would do that for my family. None of us belong to a church and outside of the nuclear family, we have no ties to the community here. It’s so hot, crowded and spread out that it’s a difficult community to be a part of, especially for someone like me, who tends to get completely overwhelmed by large groups of strangers, is middle aged, unmarried, and has no children. It’s just me and my cats.
But there I felt myself come out of my shell. I enjoyed being with people. I didn’t feel the need to be as closed off and defensive as I do in Houston. I could see myself socializing and riding around to some of the local towns and festivals and interacting with people. I am a small town girl, and Houston does not agree with me.
My Aunt and Uncle don’t want to move into the house and they need someone to live in it. I want it so bad I can taste it. I wouldn’t own it but I could live there and keep it up. I was discussing it with D and made the comment that the lawn work would be daunting for me. He said that our cousin JJ could come changes the oil on the riding mower once a year and all I’d have to do is ride around the yard like we did as kids. I could do that. And he reminded me that W is right up the road and he’d come help me if I needed it, which is true, he would. I’ve always been so independent that my first thought is always, “How am I going to do this myself?” as opposed to, “who do I know that might help me with this?”
I really and truly want to go back and am researching the feasibility of making that happen. I’d miss my parents, brothers, and nieces something fierce, but I feel like I’d have the life there that I’ve never had here. It may be a case of “the grass is always greener” but I won’t know if I don’t try.