My Uncle's Funeral
Yesterday my two sisters and I went to our uncles’ funeral in Milledgeville, Georgia. He was the last of our mother's generation to die.
Milledgeville is located more in the center of Georgia. We drove to Atlanta on the I-75 and there near the Turner Stadium turned east on the I-20, and drove east some 50 so miles, and turned south on FederalHwy 441.
I have always found the Hwy 441 interesting, although it has been over 60 years since I have been on this segment, I have been on the north Georgia mountain segment many times. It clings to the past something like Route 66 and the Dixie Highway (US 41).
One time in college, in his journalism class, Rocky and a few of his classmates jointly did a report on Hwy 441. They drove up and down it, from Franklin, North Carolina, to the first little town in Florida. The went into restaurants and motels and got post cards and brochures and made a scrapbook.
Hwy 441 goes through Clayton, Georgia, Tallulah Gorge (a huge convulse of several water falls that fall into a river far below. It is breath taking scene, and has attracted the same sort of people who tight-roped over the Niagara Falls to do the same there. Walanda rings a bell in my memory, he walked the rope there and stood on his head. 441 comes on down to Commerce, Georgia, where Holly Hunter was born, and is now a huge factory outlet center, then I think through Braselton (the town Kim Bassinger bought), Athens (home of UGA), Madison (a showplace of stately homes and mansions), Milledgeville, and probably many other notable places which I don’t recall ever going.
As soon as we turned south on 441 the look change from huge expressway to the old south. Big trees, huge crops, with several barbecue joints and similar dives.
At one we rode by at least 30, probably more, bikers were hanging around. From a quick glance from driving, the bikers looked like the Hells Angels type, but could have been a middle age yuppie biker’s club riding for some non-profit benefit or something.
We first went to a First Methodist Church where we were be with the family while some hovering ladies from my uncle’s Sunday School Class fed us lunch. Everything looked homemade, and even the KFC buckets were hidden. They had fried chicken, four types of potato salad, four or five differently made deviled eggs, and a big lineup of home made pies. We went through the lines and the women took our drink orders. I was craving coffee to jolt me from the two hour drive, but didn’t see a pot or anything, so took tea, unsweetened.
My uncle and aunt had four daughters. The oldest I communicate via email regularly and I was not shocked by her looks, she had sent me pictures from time to time. But two of the sisters had aged something I hadn’t expect. I used to chase them around as a ten year old boy… but today I could have easily caught them. One was in a wheel chair and the other had a cane and had to have her son’s hand to keep her balanced.
We got to meet a whole bunch of their children and grandchildren. They have made themselves into a whole little community. I knew they existed, by what the oldest cousin had told me, but it was a pleasure to actually to see them live and living.
Downtown Milledgeville is a nice looking big town – well, the downtown part is bigger than Marietta. It was the capital of Georgia during the Civil War. I noticed a lot of big old buildings with historical plaques outside. Someday I would like to return to take my time and read the historical marker signs.
In the funeral home there was a wide variety of humans. A lot were related and a lot were people in the community. They had a big electronic picture side-show of my uncle going all the time. Some of the pictures made we want to cry – it was done very well. I recognized about 5 pictures that I had taken over the years when my uncle and aunt would visit… this was after the daughters had families of their own.
My uncle's youngest daughter and my uncle in 1995 (notice the hog in the reflection?).
One picture I recognized was a picture of my uncle, not long after his wife had died, sitting at a table in a restaurant that was reserved for his brother and his wife’s 50th anniversary. I remember taking the picture. Then – for the first time I noticed the background.: behind my uncle was a big mirror. In the mirror was my torso, with a flashing light blocking the view of my head but my stomach was big and bloated. I forgot, that was during one of my fat periods.
Looking at it, I wish I knew how to get into the electronic gizmo that was showing the pictures and remove or delete that one picture with my flab showing. Each time, the picture selection rolled around I no longer saw my uncle smiling at the camera – but the belly.
The funeral was, a funerals are these days, a celebration of life. The temperature in the cemetery was hovering at 99◦ and 100◦.