Rusk is deep in East Texas, some 225 miles northeast of Austin. To get there, we took a state highway that is mostly two lanes, often with no shoulder to speak of, and a speed limit of 70. Except when you drive through one of the numerous tiny towns along the way. Then you may drop down to 30. This morning's drive was through fog almost all the way. The drive home, with Youngest at the wheel, was into the setting sun and then in the dark. Dark like you only get when you are literally miles from civilization. Four hours one way. Fun. Fun.
My Dad was one of seven. The numerous children, grandchildren and great children just refer to them as "The Seven". My aunt was the last of "The Seven". The family is so large that at our last family reunion, we made name tags that had the person's name and which one of "The Seven" they were related to and, in the case of grandchildren, their parent's name. Next year, we're going to make a big wall-sized family tree and have everyone take a digital snapshot as they arrive, print it up and post on their name on the tree. When you see folks maybe once a year, it gets hard to place names with faces. Just to give you some idea, altogether there are 19 children among "The Seven". I am the youngest of those at age 45. The eldest has children who are about 10 years older than I am. I'm not even going to try to count the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren among "The Seven" except to say that Aunt Mildred had 5 children and 10 grandchildren (all but three of whom are older than I) and those 10 have over a dozen children among them. I lost count a long time ago on the great-grandchildren. I do good to remember the names of my first and second cousins.
Though we call them "The Seven", that's not entirely accurate. My grandmother had 10 children. Two died before their first birthday and one around age 5. All four of my grandparents were born before the turn of the twentieth century. My parents were the next to youngest of largish families (my Mother had 5 siblings). So while my immediate family is relatively average sized, I can claim somewhere around 50 first and second cousins.
Over the years, our annual family reunions have dwindled in size as one by one "The Seven" passed on and their children and grandchildren scattered across the state and the country. This next reunion will only be the second one without one of "The Seven" in attendance.
But I'll be there, genealogy chart in tow. After all, it was my idea.
So goodbye, Aunt Mildred. For me, you are the last member of that "greatest generation" that I personally knew. But you'll live on in the grandchildren and great-children that you left behind.