Daddy was the oldest of nine redheads. The youngest is just 6 months older than I -- the one who came to cut my fallen pecan limbs. All of them, and I, went to the same elementary school and had the same first grade teacher. Granddaddy was a mechanic and grandmother stayed at home and worked her gardens -- vegetables and flowers. The nine redheads turned out pretty well.
On Monday, there was a funeral for my daddy's second brother who was called "Red." He had fought lung cancer for 9 years and, at 82, finally gave in. He left behind a close-knit family who will struggle with his absence.
As I looked at the faces of two of his sisters, three brothers and dozens of nieces and nephews, I was surprised at the smiles among the tears. I knew that there was joy in the greetings and love in the hugs. I knew that his was Family.
Spotting my oldest cousin in the crowd, I found another bit of myself; one which didn't hinge on my being an artist or any of the other roles I've filled. I was reminded of my place as the oldest 'girl' cousin in this bunch of folks. It is a special place.
Addendum: Photo in 1942 shows youngest uncle at 12 months, me at 6 months and oldest cousin at 18 months.
Note: Oldest cousin, Gene, suffered a near fatal accident some years ago which did not diminish his sense of humor. I have cherished his advice that every silver white hair represents a good time.