46 cousins – 33 miles
Weeding affords one lots of time for contemplation. There's a certain amount of Zen to harvesting garlic scapes, which also gives me time to consider life.
You are correct if I sound like I'm off on one of my philosophical ventures. One of my mother's sisters-in-law passed away, and I attended her funeral on Saturday. The prior Thursday, I drove to Jamestown to visit my dad on his 95th birthday. His hearing is gone, but he is in good health. Lonely because he's slowly becoming the last of two extensive families I call mine. We got him a new smartphone hoping he could at least have a fighting chance at hearing us when we call.
I've said this before. I thought I would have a large family forever. But I knew someday they would all be gone. Tucked inside my mom's family history book are funeral folders and a list with highlighted names. This week another name received its yellow swipe.
On a positive note, I spent some time with my cousins, Jan, Diane and Connie. Rather than drive straight to the New Kassel Cemetery for the burial, we took a "crop tour" of old farmsteads. Some are gone – some have changed hands – most I don't remember how to get to.
We drove by my grandparents' farm. That I remember. The tree row, the barns across the gravel driveway, I remember. The house is gone. The old grinding wheel for sharpening knives is gone. The garden is gone. But memories live on.
I didn't grow up in that area. My dad moved us to Fredonia and then to Gackle by the time I was 12 years old. I knew some of the names my cousins were remembering, most of them not. At one time, if you stood on top of a particular hill, you were surrounded by Meidinger farms, all relatives of mine.
Even though I knew all my relatives, perhaps better than my siblings, I didn't know them. My mom's family was skilled at crocheting, metal work, woodwork, farming, gardening, cooking, sewing, you name it, someone could do it. Every funeral gives glimpses into my aunts and uncles' lives outside of the gatherings we attended.
Now they are joining together to rest peacefully at the cemetery south on Zeeland road. That cemetery reads like a history of my mom's family. It saddened me to notice the fresh soil in the row that contains three of my mom's brothers (one of them is not there yet because it was his wife that passed last week) as the funerals are happening closer and closer together. The New Kassel Church t in 1905, incorporated in 1911, burned down in 1938, was rebuilt the same year, and then in 1979, merged with two other churches and became the UCC in Wishek. Everyone at those services was related to me -- men on the right side pews and women and children sitting on the left. I included directions in our history book so the younger generations could find it someday. Attending that church is one of my blessed memories.
We always discuss how the cousins should get together for a visit outside of funerals, but it isn't very easy. We live so far away from each other. And that wasn't always the case.
Before arriving at the cemetery, Jan turned to me and said, "I grew up with 46 cousins, all within 33 miles of me. That was because of you."
I laughed when I finally figured out she meant I messed up her proximity by living in Fredonia at the time. My dad didn't care to farm and moved us to what was commonly called "the hinterlands."
My friends, it hurts to realize that time waits for no one. So, to my family that has gone before me – until we meet again in heaven – I will remember you.
6/28/2022 08:28:46 am
I also attended New Kassel until Mom & Dad joined St. Andrew's. Loved both old churches. My grandparents & many aunts & uncles, cousins, second cousins, and assorted relatives are buried there--actually, both cemeteries!
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Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.