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Family bonds are tightly woven

I grew up surrounded by family and love. My mom and I moved back home with my grandparents when I was about two years old. It was a full house with some of her siblings still at home and I felt almost as if I had brothers and sisters instead of aunts and uncles. To this day I still don’t refer to them by the title of aunt or uncle. It just seems too formal for the connection we share.
I felt like I grew up with two mother figures in those early years as well because of the closeness I felt to my grandmother. Often times she would stay up and watch TV shows with me, fix me something special to eat and rock me until we both fell asleep in the chair.
I still remember several old hymns she would sing to me and I think of her fondly each time I hear them today. She knew the ways of survival and the mountain ways of planting by the signs, milking a cow and making butter. She could also whip up something sweet to eat in no time in the kitchen.
My grandmother had words that were her own and I haven’t heard them often since. She used to say things like “I wish to my never” and “I swan.” I don’t know what those mean but I treasure the phrases still today.
Sundays were special days and certainly intended for church. She loved pretty dresses with matching hats and would usually wear a matching brooch and strand of beads.
My mom fixed my grandmother’s hair, which was halfway down her back in length. She wore it plaided, pulled up on top of her head and wrapped into a bridge shaped bun that was secured with bobby pins.
On Sundays the family would always come by the house, which was the home place, for a big lunch. I looked forward to having everyone there because it gave me a chance to visit with them and play with my cousins. Meals would most always consist of canned green beans, freezer corn, mashed potatoes, corn bread and some type of meat.
My grandmother died from stroke when I was 13 years old. It took me a few years to express my emotion. I guess I held it inside and didn’t know quite how to show it. To this day I can think of her and still choke up and ache inside from missing her. I don’t know of a single person that I have lost in my life that I miss as much as her. I treasure the memories I have of her.
In my mind I was taken back in time last Friday while having “supper,” as we always referred to it, with my uncle Ray Chandler and his family. We met for his birthday, which is this Wednesday, March 20.
He was in high school when mom and I moved back to the home place. I remember sleeping with him in a twin bed at an age before I started to school. There was an empty bed in the same room but I needed the comfort and security he brought. If I couldn’t get to sleep he would get out and drive with me until I got sleepy and then carry me inside and place me back in bed.
I have continued to count on him for comfort and security through the years. As a child, I looked up to him because he was taller but I came to look up to him because of his character. He has taught me much over the years in terms of what is right and wrong.
If I needed help with anything, I could always count on him to be there. In fact, last year when I couldn’t get my mower started, he came down and mowed my yard. Others in the community turned to him through the years because he could be relied on.
I grew up with him in church and watched him teach, “attempt to sing,” hold the role of superintendent and deacon. I’ve heard him pray and seen him agonize on behalf of someone else’s needs as well as his own. In fact, he has prayed many prayers for me and I have witnessed a difference because of it.
It seemed good to see him last week and remember the past. We’ve laughed and joked and shed tears over the years. It is nice having him as a “big brother.” I’m grateful for his influence in my life and hope he has many birthdays to come.