Friday, May 27, 2011

In the House of My Great-Aunt and Uncle

Over spring break 2008, my mom, my daughter and I ventured to Virginia to visit relatives. It had been exactly thirty years since I had been there, but as we got closer, the streets of that small Virginia town became more and more familiar. I recognized the house, a low brick ranch, right away. And the smell. It’s not a bad smell, but one I always associate with their house. It reminds me of hot asphalt, but Mom said it was from the insecticide everyone there uses.

I would have recognized my mom’s uncle anywhere, too. Age had slowed him a little bit physically, but his blue eyes were as bright as always, his mind sharp as pin. His wife of 75 years hadn’t faired so well; Alzheimer’s disease had taken its toll. Being ever the southern belle, she smiled and laughed with us when appropriate, but over all, she didn’t connect with our conversation.

Their daughter had made arrangements for round-the-clock help to keep an eye on both of them, assist with meals and housework and whatever else needed to be done.

Val, still recovering from her bout of food poisoning, retreated to the car to sleep. She hadn’t been out there long, when the evening hired-help showed up. Mary scooped Val up and ushered her back inside.

“I found this little girl out in the car. She say she been sick, and the back seat of a car ain’t no place if you sick. I goin’ put her to bed and git her some lemon tea.”

Val followed Mary into the bedroom and dutifully crawled into bed. When it was time to leave for the evening, Val really didn’t want to go. She found southern living quite to her liking. At the time, though, she had not seen any true southern living.

Val, later that day, at the home of our cousin.

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