FLYING IN. Yesterday, my folks flew into Indy from Florida primarily to see our daughter Molly perform as Gabriella in the Ben Davis High School spring drama "High School Musical" (tonight through Sunday night, 7:30 pm at BDHS; get your tickets at the door!).
HOMETOWN GATHERING. Today, I drove with them to New Castle, Indiana. New Castle is their hometown. My sister was also born there. Most of our family--my aunts, uncles, and cousins on both the Sheffield and Hay sides--continue to live there. We met mom's two remaining living siblings and their spouses, along with the widow of one of mom's two deceased brothers, for lunch. The crew ranged in age from 68 to 81. Growing up with these familiar people as my family elders is one thing; seeing them as becoming elderly is quite another. But their kinship, friendship and laughter is comforting, even inspiring.
MARTIN & LOLA HAY. After lunch, they decided to go the cemetery where all the Sheffield and Hay people are buried. So, we drove over to the grounds and walked among the tombstones. Casually, nonchallantly, they pointed out gravesites of friends, classmates and family members of people they'd gone to church with in New Castle back in the day. We made our way to the gravesite of Grandpa Martin and Grandma Lola Hay, dad's parents. We also stopped at the tomb of dad's brother Billie. Another brother, Teddy, was buried in another section of the park. Both brothers were younger than dad.
FIGHTING WORDS. I'll never forget my grandpa Hay's funeral. I was 18 at the time. The preacher, an ultra-conservative holiness firebrand, said such offensive things in the funeral service that Teddy and Billie wanted to beat him up afterwards. Dad intervened to prevent the scrap. I remember being angry at the preacher, too. I told dad today that I sort of wished he'd have let Teddy and Billie go at Amos. "Me, too," dad said. And we laughed.
SHEFFIELD LOVED ONES. We also spent some time at the gravesites of my papaw Willie Robert and mamaw Laura Mae Sheffield. Aunt Willie Mae Sheffield, their eldest daughter, is buried right next to them. Papaw and Mamaw died before I was five years old. After their deaths, Aunt Willie Mae, a single school teacher, became the matriarch of the Sheffield clan. We all loved her alot. We were all very upset when she succombed to the ravages of diabetes in 1998. We still grieve her death to some extent. "It just isn't right!" I proclaimed at her grave today. "No, it isn't," mom agreed. She and Willie Mae were best friends.
FOUR SIDE-BY-SIDE. We sauntered down the hill to a newer section of the cemetery. We walked up to four side-by-side plots, three of them with tombstones already in place and inscribed with names--minus the death dates. They were the purchased grave plots of each of the seven elders I stood among at the moment. Emery and Jean Sheffield will be buried next to Gene Dale (aleady in the grave) and Virginia Sheffield. Dad and mom will be next in line, though they have chosen to not place a stone on their plot at this point. And, next to them, Harold and Myra (Sheffield) Hacker. How these people can joke and laugh in front of their graves, I do not know. To top it off, they wanted me to take their pictures standing at their respective gravesites. I told them they were all sick...and then whimsically snapped their photos.