If you’ve ever read the late Willie Morris’ My Dog Skip, or if you saw the movie, then you know a lot about what it was like to grow up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, or in any number of small towns across the South. And, it wasn’t much different in the 30’s and 40’s as it was in the 50’s and 60’s. Just the technology was different.
Aline was born in 1928 near Yazoo City, in the heart of the Mississippi delta. Some of her favorite memories were those of walking across the meadow to school, skipping along and holding hands with her little sister, Sarah.
Sarah and her daughter were able to come for a visit over the holidays. The love and laughter shared by the sisters during that visit seemed for a while to peel away the years. The smiles and memories of days gone by were as thick as the scent of honeysuckle on a moist summer morning in the Delta.
I never knew Aline’s husband. He passed away long before I married into the family. But, they raised three daughters and three sons who, all but one, were able to be by her bedside this morning in Pascagoula. I’m sure it would have been all six siblings, but for an April snowstorm in Kansas preventing timely travel arrangements for Marsha.
A couple of months ago, Aline was strong enough to travel back to her home in Pascagoula. Actually, it was to the FEMA trailer located behind her shell of a home which had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. She wanted to go home. Aline wanted to be in Pascagoula, even if it mean having to stay in a 28 ft. camper while reconstruction on her home proceeded. She wouldn’t have had it any other way. And, when her mind was made up about something, there really wasn’t any use in arguing about it. It was settled. Period.
I asked Janice this morning what she remembered best about her mom. She told me about Aline’s penchant for fishing and for cooking. Gumbo, you understand, just isn’t gumbo unless the roux is right. And the roux won’t be right unless you stir it constantly until it is a smooth and velvety brown. And Aline’s gumbo was always right. The only thing better was her fried chicken.
Christian, who is probably the the most natural fisherman I’ve ever known, told me that he couldn’t keep up with Aline when it came to catching bream and bass. It didn’t matter about the bait, the equipment, whether in a boat or off the dock, or sitting on an overturned five-gallon bucket, fishing off the banks using a cane pole and worms, Aline was going to catch the limit. But, as much fun as it was for her to go fishing, having a large family, it wasn’t just for fun that all those fish were caught. Family income was sometimes unpredictable, and the responsibilities of raising the family often fell on her shoulders. That family loyalty was evident this morning.
Pam and Todd spent a lot of time with Aline over the past year and a half since Katrina. They both took time from work to care for her in this very difficult time. I’ve said before that it is an almost impossible job, often frustrating, very demanding, and at times, thankless. Their contributions to Aline’s final months cannot be underestimated. But, as I mentioned this morning after Aline passed away, each one of the siblings had consistently made valuable contributions to their mother’s well-being. They were there for her, but each one wanted to do more. To each of you, I say, there was nothing more to do. When your mom completed her struggle this morning, she was at peace, and she is now in a better place.
Richard and Charles live in Lucedale. Pam lives in McComb. Janice and Marsha live in Atlanta. Todd lives in Pascagoula. There are thirteen grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and a number of neices and nephews, cousins and friends. And, as dear Aunt Irma told me at the Thanksgiving reunion at the Lafont Inn a few years ago, we don’t have in-laws in this family, because, we’re all family. All of us will miss her fiercely, until we meet again.