Tag Archives: family

Family Thoughts

This is a post about family.  My Aunt Nell died today.  We weren’t close; I hadn’t seen her in quite a few years.  I remember her as sweet, kind, and soft-spoken.  She was the eighth-born child (out of ten) of my grandparents, widowed, the mother of five sons.  My dad, her youngest brother, was the ninth child in the family.  My grandparents grew up in rural North Carolina, and after starting their family together, later moved to the farthest western part of the state.  This was in the early 1900s, so I can only imagine what a rough and long trip that must have been over mountainous terrain with young children.  My grandmother graduated from college to become a teacher; I don’t know if she actually ever taught or not before they made the move, began their life on a farm, and expanded their family more.  They raised tobacco, had chickens and cows, and grew a lot of their own vegetables, grapes, and had apple trees.  They lived by the river, and the kids fished, hunted, and worked around the farm.  It was a hard life, and they were poor money-wise, but they were somewhat unique for their time and place living in a poor rural southern county.  Seven of the children, including my dad, including Aunt Nell, eventually went on to graduate from college and become teachers, six of them for their whole working adult lives. 

I think my love of outdoors and nature came from my dad and from my grandparents, taking walks, the mountains and the river, the swinging bridge and the porch swing, fresh eggs and homemade grape juice.  I know my love of cats started on their farm, too.  But something else came to mind as I thought about family today.  We can’t make assumptions about people based on where and how they grew up, or what they looked like, or what hand-me-down and homemade clothes they wore.  Looking at the pictures of my dad when he was a little boy living in Appalachia, barefoot and wearing his overalls, you wouldn’t guess he would later become a math professor at a university, or that he and several of his siblings would be awarded recognition for all their years given in service to education.  It says a lot about family, perseverance and hard work, love, sacrifice, humor, faith, and support.

I know, you might be wondering what this has to do with pantheism.  For all their outdoor activities and love of Nature, my family certainly wasn’t pantheist.  They were Methodist growing up (many still are), and their Christian faith was quite important to them, but it’s not about that.  For me, pantheism isn’t just about science and the great outdoors.  It’s about life, beautiful and messy, family, everyday things, and death.   It’s also about memories and lessons learned, traits inherited, traditions passed down (some embraced, others discarded), and connections.  It’s really just about everything.

Aunt Nell was the last living child of my grandparents. It’s the end of an era for my family, but for my five cousins and their families today, it’s the loss of their mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law. As one of my cousins said, “It’s a sad day.”

That’s what I’ve been thinking about today.



“In all things we should try to make ourselves be as grateful as possible…” (Seneca), from today’s Daily Stoic reading.

I’m grateful I could spend the holiday weekend with one of my daughters and a close friend and granddog, Beau.  We ate, laughed, talked. Had hot chocolate with peppermint sticks, worked on puzzles, had a fire outside and enjoyed weather that was really too good for December, and took two good walks.  We watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, and A Christmas Story.  Coming in one night from looking at Christmas lights downtown, we looked up, and the sky was filled with stars…gave me goosebumps.  There are always stresses, but there’s also always something to be grateful for, and for me, it’s these simple, beautiful things.


Road Trips

I love this article about the “Rock City barns” from Smoky Mountain News SMNXtra, written by Cliff Kevill, especially this line:

“To spot one of these sentinels is to catch a glimpse of a time gone by when families in sedans and station wagons took to two-lane highways in search of adventure.”

Makes me feel nostalgic, bringing back lots of good memories. I come from a family, apparently going back a couple of generations, who liked to pile in the car and go on a ride — day trips, weekend getaways, Sunday afternoons. Later, after 4-lane highways made their appearance, I always wanted to go what I would call “the people way” — which meant 2-lane roads through small towns and the countryside in between, away from the highway. I always felt the 4-lane was boring and not too interesting to view out my backseat window. I still feel that way. These trips embraced western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, and parts of South Carolina.

I can’t really think back about my life over the years without remembering road trips to special and beautiful places with family, both as a child and as an adult, and every one of them was an adventure, accompanied by a sense of anticipation and excitement. Who knew what the day might bring?

When my parents were in their 70s, I was the driver and they were the passengers, and we all still enjoyed taking off on an adventure of a day trip somewhere, usually involving at least in part a previously untraveled (by us) road as well as a fair amount of reminiscing. Now that my parents have passed on, these are precious memories I can hold on to.

Oh, and by the way, yes, I have actually been to Rock City.


From Housemates to Brothers

I share my house and my heart with these two little guys, Oscar, a tuxedo kitty, and Macchiato, an American bobtail, both rescues.  Unfortunately, two weeks ago, Oscar’s sweet, close, and lookalike sister, Emmy, passed away from kidney failure (the two of them were almost inseparable, spending most of their time in their own little world), and now these two boys are figuring out how to get along and become more than housemates, but brothers.  It’s  a work in progress, and I’m trying to keep my expectations reasonable, but sharing a couch is a good place to be.  They’re family and make up a big part of my cozy life.

I miss this precious little Emmy girl and her sweet kisses. While there’s an empty space here in the house, she’s always in my heart.