I got the call from my mom last May. My Great Aunt Inez was turning 90 and they were throwing a party. She lived in Anderson, Indiana, about 20 miles northeast of Indianapolis. It’s a five hour drive for us, but I was glad to make the trip. I always liked my Aunt Inez. And I’m always up for a family party. There aren’t too many places that haven’t changed from my childhood. However, my Aunt Inez’s house is one of them. I found a picture from – I don’t know when; my grandma and grandpa had dark hair. There they were, standing together in a kitchen. I showed it to Meka and she immediately recognized where it was taken. As far as I can tell, time stopped there somewhere around 1960.
It isn’t very large, just a little ranch house on the corner. Her son Jack had tables and tents set up in the yard. Daniel doesn’t have too many close relatives, so it’s always nice to find a way to introduce him to more family. He ended up playing cars with some kids around his age. They were related in some fashion; I just told him they were “cousins”. We saw relatives from across the United States. We drove about 300 miles, but my mom drove almost twice that. Her cousin David came in from the Carolinas and others drove in from Florida.
Throughout it all, my Great Aunt Inez held court in her living room. Someone had given her a tiara and plastic scepter which she wielded with good humor. Opening all of her gifts took the better part of the afternoon. As the sun was going down in the west, I gathered everyone together to take a picture of us all. My aunt’s yard was too small, but the driveway next door was long and flat and perfect.
“What if they don’t want us to take a picture?” someone asked.
“Who cares?” I replied. “We outnumber them.”
Everyone walked across 8th Street and stood in a long row while I set up the camera. Aunt Inez took a seat in the center of the crowd. I set the timer and ran to a place along the side.
“Everyone say ‘Take the frigging picture!'” I actually said “frigging” because Aunt Inez didn’t approve of coarse language.
“TAKE THE FRIGGING PICTURE!”
The camera flashed once, twice, three times. Everyone started to move, but I motioned them to hold their positions, just in case, while I check to see if everything had worked. It did. The picture turned out fine; a nice souvenir from a classic family party.
I got the call from my mom Monday night. My Great Aunt Inez passed away in the evening. She had been ill for about a week. She was 91 years old. I’m driving down to Anderson again. It’s sad, of course; no one likes to say goodbye. But there’s bound to be a crowd. I’ll see plenty of cousins, I’m sure, from around the country. And with the tears, there will be smiles and some laughter as we reminisce at her final farewell: one last family party.