My Mother married my Step Father (the man who helped raise me) a few months before my 7th birthday. When he became my Dad, I inherited a Grandmother, an Aunt and Uncle and three cousins. This new family all lived in rural Kentucky. The town is a map dot. We’re talking a flashing yellow light and a couple of stop signs. Until the 1990s, addresses began Rural Route 3. I became close to the youngest of these cousins. She was the only girl. Looking back on it, I basically played babysitter to her when we visited every couple of months until she was old enough to hang with the big kids.
This cousin grew up mudding on four wheelers in hills they called hollers. She skipping school to help plant tobacco and ran the roads way to early with friends of her older brother who was closer to my age but too cool for us girls. She was the Country Mouse to my City Mouse. I could not truly comprehend her life and she couldn’t truly comprehend mine but we loved each other despite our differences.
My cousin was smart. One of the smartest ones in her graduating class. She skipped her graduation ceremony to run off with her boyfriend. They got married soon after and welcomed their first child. I begged her to go to college. I begged her to get out of that little podunk town where all there is to do is make babies and/or do meth. She stayed away from the meth but managed to have five babies. She loved her children but her life was not easy. It was hard scrabble and yet she made sure her kids had everything they needed and most anything they wanted.
I got a call earlier this week saying my country mouse cousin had passed away. She had battled health problems for years – mostly uncontrolled type two diabetes and not taking care of herself. She didn’t make it to 40. I remember when she was still in diapers. How can it be that she is gone?
I cannot wrap my head around a world without her in it. Even though I lost my mom at a young age, I cannot imagine how her youngest, who is 9 years old, feels right now. I can never unhear her son wailing at the funeral, “I want my Momma and it’s not fair.”
At some juncture during the funeral, I realized my connection to that family is no more. My Step Dad, my Grandmother, My Aunt and Uncle and now two of the three cousins have all passed away. I am not close with my remaining cousin so I will never go back to that tiny town. For old time’s sake, I drove by my grandmother’s old farm. All of the buildings have been torn down and I wouldn’t know the place were it not right next door to the family’s church.
As I drove out of town, a late model SUV pulled out in front of me and proceeded to drive ridiculously slow. On the back window was a sticker that read, “I hope you keep Jesus as close to you as you are to my bumper.” You’d never see a sticker like that in the city but you do in the country. In my hurry to leave that tiny town behind, I was reminded once again that this City Mouse doesn’t belong here.
Photo Credit: Me – this is what the road to my Grandmother’s house. Rural Route 3 indeed.