November 8, 2015, 10:32 AM, my cell phone rings. It’s my cousin Donald yet again.  My heart is heavy and I know the news he is probably going to report.  He tearfully recounts that his mother, Lola, my mother’s first cousin and the woman who helped raise me all those years ago has left our presence…

Lola is the cousin I spoke of recently on my personal website of her family’s great kindness in offering me the return of my little Grandmother’s cherished tiny table and chairs. I treasure their return. Lola was a care-taker of Grandmother’s beloved items and I thank her once again for the safe-keeping all these years.

Lola’s health has been in decline for some time now and she has been finally freed from her human bonds; those bonds which have tied all of my family together for so many years.

Lola was my mother’s first female cousin; their mothers were sisters and the family bond has been very close during all those years. Lola and Grady were the first to be married then Donald was born.  Mama and Daddy married early in January of 1949 and I found my way to join them late December.  From the first moment of my meeting their family, I have been bound with an unending love

Grady was a fun-loving and witty man and Lola always had such a lovely smile, a quick wit and a contagious laugh.   I always looked forward to spending time with them.

Donald and I were the terrible duo for so many years; he was one year, 3 months older and I was apparently devoted to him from our first meeting.  Those feelings have not left my soul, even though the chasm of our lives has now widened considerably. My memory takes me back to a time, far simpler than today or at least to my advanced years seems so…

Over the years of my childhood, there were many visits with Lola and each time I stayed overnight, she would cook various breakfast items to begin the mornings. We were all farm families and breakfast was a very important meal of the day. My Daddy insisted we were to start every day with grits and eggs and we looked forward to the breakfast offering each morning.   For so many years however, Lola had tried and tried to get me to enjoy and appreciate her offering of oatmeal, something which I never remembered even having in our home. I am sure in her daily routine of cooking she had developed a wonderful and tasty ‘recipe’ for oatmeal. However, no matter how hard I tried and no matter how she would sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, raisins or any other means of spicing up the dish…I just could NOT enjoy it! Memories of a certain ‘gag reflex’ come flooding back to my mind and I only hope I didn’t appear as a brat when I just couldn’t force it down my gullet!  I never would have hurt Lola’s feelings on purpose; hopefully she could see it just wasn’t ‘my cup of tea’ so to speak.

I remember a certain trip Mama took us on in a 1957 Ford station wagon. That thing in my child’s eyes appeared as big as a city block.  Daddy did not go with us; just Mama, my little sisters and me. I can remember a certain baby bed in the back of that old car but can’t remember if it was Nola or Kay within.  By this time in our families, Lola and Grady had welcomed Donald, Mitchell and Sharon and possibly Anita into their clan and Grady had relocated his family to Stuart, Florida for his power company career. Lola and Mama decided it would be a welcome little vacation so off we went in that big old tank of an automobile.  (What a brave woman my Mama was all those years ago, travelling with small children into a foreign land…!)

During our visit, we were treated to an afternoon on the beach. I can still see Lola and Mama sitting on the shoreline with the little ones but Donald and I were old enough to swim out into the waves; we were both strong swimmers.  I remember the two of us being hailed by our mothers from the shoreline “come on back in… you’re too far out…”   However, we were both bold and curious and somewhat ‘firm headed’ as my daddy would say and went further and further out, totally oblivious to the dangers of the sea.  It was when we began holding hands and jumping those waves now over our heads that I realized we could be in danger. Donald, of course, was a very curious little fellow and apparently had absolutely no fear in anything he did. I can still feel the joy in jumping those waves but felt protected while he was holding my hand.  Why I put so much faith into his abilities I don’t really know but I did feel safe while in his presence.  I can also remember the relief on Lola and Mama’s faces when we decided “maybe we’d better get in a little closer…maybe we ARE too far out.”  Lola’s stern ‘talking to’ was enough that I decided maybe that was a little too bold and reckless for kids our ages.  (I’m so sorry we put our Mamas through the fear!)  We heeded our Mamas’ stern lectures and the rest of the day was thoroughly enjoyed, nonetheless closer to the shoreline at the very least. When it was time to leave the beach, I’m sure Lola was very glad to have all her passengers safely on board.

I’m sure that trip to Lola’s home with all those young’uns was a good time but I can also imagine the relief when we all left her family home as well. (As Daddy used to say when we wanted to stay longer “visitors are like fish; at about day 3 they begin to stink…!”)

I hope I have sufficiently thanked Lola for all the wonderful years she allowed my presence with her family and her willingness to look after me as her own.   I was honored when she recently commented how much she enjoyed reading my books and stories.  She told me they took her back in her own life; and that my words allowed her to revisit those places with memories.  I am very thankful and honored to hear her lovely comments and can only hope I did her proud in those places I wrote of her family. I have loved her for my entire life and looked forward to each time I could witness her laughter and see the twinkle in her eye.  Those times will stay in my heart and soul for the rest of my life.

 To Donald, Mitchell, Sharon, Anita, and all their spouses, children and grandchildren, I offer my sincerest condolences on the loss of your mother but know you all are aware the greatest reunion of all is now being experienced and her smile is once again brilliant...

Until we meet once more, Lola, I will say once again “I love you” and thank you for all the years of joy, comfort and protection you have given me. Your journey has been difficult at times but my heart tells me you have now received the peace and comfort we all seek.  Your earthly countenance might be gone from our presence but your spirit will live in our hearts forever.  Rest in Peace Lola…

Dell Anne Hines Afzal

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