2017-04-26 / Editorials

Don Lively

WHAT A LIFE

It's an undeniable, indisputable, rock solid fact that, when you are born, you have zero control over who you're kin to.

None.

However, there's no hard-and-fast rule against not claiming some of the more insufferable members of our respective clans, in fact, in some families I've known down through the years, the only factor linking some folks together is a DNA.

On more than one occasion, I've inadvertently learned, from some offhanded remark, that two people I've known for years are closely related, but not close.

"We don't really have much to do with each other," is a rejoinder that I've heard a time or two.

It's almost a foreign concept to me.

In my sprawling, eccentric, extraordinary Southern family, we have our share of kinsmen and kinswomen who can drive most of the rest of us up the proverbial wall, but, we still claim them.

We might avoid them, we might even shake our heads and look at our feet whenever somebody outside of the family brings up their names, but, we'd never deny being related.

That's just not our way.

Fortunately, for the most part, we all get along rather well, considering that there are, literally, hundreds of us. Our yearly reunion will push upwards toward 300 some years, and that's just a fraction of the whole bunch.

It's not just blood kin that counts either. Once you marry into our family, there's no getting out unless you get divorced, and, even then, if we like you, we still let you hang out with us on occasion. If we don't like you, well, that's another matter.

Recently, we had a birthday gathering for one of the matriarchs of our family. It was a testament to her that well over 100 folks took a large chunk of their Saturday to come celebrate.

During the hours that we were all together, I spent some time looking over the crowd and doing some reminiscing about many of the folks in attendance. Most of them were related to me in some way. Several branches of the family were represented, a few were not.

A few tables over from my wife and me was the oldest living male cousin of our generation and his wife. They have always been special but over the past few years they've become some of my favorite people on Earth. You'd never know, based on his humility, that he was once one of the best high school running backs our state has ever seen. These days he's helping me put my songs down on tracks while she patiently records us, miraculously, without laughing her head off.

At another table was my "double aunt" and her husband. Double, because she, Mama's youngest sister, was once married to Daddy's youngest brother, now deceased. She's battled, and appears to have beaten, cancer over the past few years and he's stood beside her every step of the way. They are treasures.

Across the room I spotted a cousin, a few years younger than me, and one of our most colorful family members. A lifelong bachelor, he seems to know nearly everybody in the Blessed South and he road trips even more than I do. A few hours after our gathering, he was already partying with friends in Tallahassee.

There were plenty of others, all unique and all with their own stories.

But, the main attraction, the reason for the party, was also the life of that party. She's my oldest aunt and we were there to celebrate her 90th birthday. If anybody who hadn't seen her for a while arrived expecting to find her sitting in a chair at the head table, quietly enjoying the festivities and nibbling on birthday cake, they were in for a surprise. She worked the room like the most polished politician. She laughed and smiled and hugged. She told stories on herself and allowed some of us to tell stories on her. She rarely sat down all afternoon.

None of we local kin were surprised.

She still drives herself to church.

She knows every member and most Sundays she makes a point to get around to speak to almost everybody.

Until just a couple of years ago she still cut her own lawn with a riding lawn mower. I heard her kids had to hide the mower to make her quit.

She married into our family so we're not blood related, but, I hope and pray that some of those remarkable genes have somehow rubbed off on me.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Margie.

Congratulations on a life well lived.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin' At The Dixie Moon, and, South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin' At The Dixie Moon, and, South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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