My great uncle died the other day. He lived a long and I expect happy life: seven nice kids, a great wife, a ton of grandkids, including one who was awarded the Air Force Cross last year, which is a big deal.
I don't remember seeing uncle Arnie much because he was a commercial truck driver.
Until he was EIGHTY YEARS OLD.
He drove truck until he was 80. Then I guess he had to slow down.
When he was home with my aunt Madge, in whose house my third cousins (or whatever - I cannot keep those relationships straight - Madge was their grandmother and the sister of my dad's father) Dana and Mary Liz and I liked to climb through the laundry chute in the bathroom down to the basement and drop to the floor and then climb out of the attic window to the roof, he sat at the kitchen table, sipping his coffee and not saying much. He probably poured his coffee into his saucer to cool the way my grandfather did. Madge did enough talking for both of them - I say that in a good way. I always made sure to visit Madge when I was in town.
My grandma Sylvia died at 96 or 97. She lived on her own until she was 95. She was a smoker. (Oh no!) Even in the nursing home, she would sneak out back for a cigarette. If you can't smoke when you're 96, when can you? I plan to start smoking, drinking and gambling when I'm 70.
The email I got from my aunt said only "the funeral is at 11 on Saturday." She knew I would know where it was. My mom and dad are from a small town with no stoplights. (This is the town where Arnie lived.) There is one Catholic church in town. Of course that's where the funeral is.
I used to be able to send mail to my grandma Johnson addressed to "Helen Johnson, Dorchester, Wisconsin." It would get to her. Once when I needed cash, I went to the bank and asked if they would cash a check. For whatever reason, I didn't have the proper ID.
"Oh hey that's fine," the teller said. "You're Helen's granddaughter, right? Those are her paintings on the wall."
Indeed. The bank was displaying about five of my grandma's paintings.
People who live long, sturdy lives and who all know each other. Not too shabby.