Uncle Eli’s Birthday

Last week I received an invitation to Uncle Eli’s birthday party. At first consideration, I declined, writing an email to the eldest in the family. When I told my husband about the invitation, he said, “Go!” That is all it took. It was easy to arrange. I planned my route carefully via yahoo’s maps. I packed my clothes, called Aunt Irene to see if she could keep me. Gas, ouch, was filled up. Sunday morning I left at 8 am, anticipating a wonderful drive, but missing church services.

Never fear! I have Max Lucado on tapes. As I tried to insert a tape, I could not find the receptacle. What? This 2005 Malibu doesn’t have a place to play a tape? That was my first error on the way. The way to Highway 400 from Rogers creates many turns and it all looks different than Yahoo maps. I didn’t take the Atlas because I was confident. Confidence always causes me a bit of trouble. Pride goeth before a fall is the verse that I know well! As I tooled along on 400 East, I had this bad feeling. I pulled into a place where I saw a pickup drive in. I drove in, too. I asked about driving to El Dorado. The man in the pickup looked blank, but he asked the man who came to the door, who immediately was followed by a little lady. Soon I was invited inside to look at the Atlas and given directions to go on my way. Meanwhile the friendly curious dog licked my toes and watered them up good. Yuck. I thanked them kindly for the footbath — no, the directions and proceeded on my way. I watched for the hillside rest area, each time I thought I saw it, I was disappointed. A Conoco station cut short my need.

Once I called Ed and asked him about the towns along Hiway 77 via the cellphone. Then we were out of range to continue our conversation. With relief I found Aunt Irene’s house in Hillsboro. There I chanced upon a family group finishing lunch. Aunt Irene filled a plate with a huge piece of Angelfood cake topped with strawberries and a dollop (that is a big spoonful) of whipped cream on top. Two of Aunt Irene’s children plus a cousin were sitting around the table. It was an interesting family conversation of current happenings and past memories. Afterward, we took a short nap.

After a Faspa (a snack to tide a person over until he can eat dinner), we went to the Scout House. It reverberated with Dutchy talk of cousins, second cousins and all sorts of family,
diving into ice cream and cake.

I walked up to Uncle Eli and handed him my card and wished him Happy Birthday with a hug.
He said, “I was hoping I would see you.” Immediately the 310 miles, the wrong turns and the incovenience evaporated. I could feel ‘family’ envelope me. This is my Mom’s little brother.
The rest of the time was spent with my cousins and second cousins catching up on marriages, plans after graduation from college or high school and grandchildren.

Since I am the oldest cousin in the G. W. Suderman family, I used to feel ‘too old’ to talk to my cousins. But no more — time has erased the years and we are all the same age. We talked about genealogy, teaching piano lessons, books we have read, gardens, quilting, the wheat crop for 06, health and drank in looking at each other to store up the images for another year or two.

After the party Aunt Irene and I returned to her house. It was 9 pm. The next time we looked it was midnight. Aunt Irene and I sat at the dining room table and prayed together for our families, for our time together, for our blessings in Jesus and for a good night’s sleep. After we went to bed we heard God say, “Amen, Amen,” as the thunder heralded a welcome drink upon the earth.

Before breakfast the next morning, Aunt Irene read some devotions and then we visited for another period of time. How blessed. Aunt Irene is just six years older than I am. When I listen to her talk, I hear my mother and in her eyes I see sunny harvest fields under a blue, blue sky in central Kansas. When I rose to go, she simply said, “I was afraid it would come to this.”
We bid each other goodbye, both refreshed by memories of the past and the blessedness of family.

As I left to drive to Uncle Eli and Aunt Edna’s home across from the Ebenfeld church, I thought about how many times mother traveled the same road, before it was paved. It seemed that the trees that stood guard beside the road were a bit larger and greener.

Aunt Edna invited me in and we sat at the table in the window in their family room to visit. We talked about grandchildren, life and death. We enjoyed our fellowship. I remembered the special trips to Hillsboro to see Grandpa and Grandma. I remembered Uncle Eli giving me a ride on the family horse. I remember him teasing me in the backyard as someone cranked the icecream freezer on the back porch. I remember watching Uncle Eli and Aunt Edna getting married.

Then it was time to leave. Much too soon. The memories of this trip lingered in my mind as I sped across Kansas and back to Arkansas.

Thank you, Lord, for memories and thank you for your Love that makes me whole!

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