They’ve all gone. Home, I like to think. Paradise, I have to believe.
The world is a better place for their having been here. Our children will be poorer without knowing it because they never got to know their great grandparents up close and personal like we did.
Somehow, though I cannot for the life of me put my finger on what or how exactly, we – the Baby Boomer generation – failed to pass on some of the key habits and philosophies our parents lived by. They earned the title of the “Greatest Generation” by doing more than expected the best they could with what they had and a because “we can and we should” attitude.
When I called my cousin Rebecca two weeks ago to tell her Mom’s struggle and suffering were ended, she had died that morning, we talked of sadness, but also relief. Mom was the last of the eight, my dad and his three brothers and their wives, all now buried in neighboring plots at Oakview Cemetery in Mullin.
“It makes me happy to think of them together again,” Rebecca said. “And when I think of them, I think of them young, and strong, and able. How they laughed, how they worked, how they loved life when it was good, and if it was not always.”
Our dads were the youngest two Cooksey boys of the four. Just for a reference, Jack was born in 1920; Tom, in 1921; Rebecca’s dad, Max, 1922; and my dad, Bill, in 1925. So yes, the oldest and youngest were only five years apart. The four grew up in Sleepy Hollow during the Great Depression and they all, one-by-one, enlisted to go fight in World War II.
Like the rest of their generation who made it home from the war, they set out to make their country be in peace as great as it was at war, and they built schools, and parks, grew industry and handled business. They gave more to their children than they had ever had, preparing them for a future they could not imagine.
In a trivial fact Rebecca and I love to tell, our mothers were best friends throughout high school, graduating valedictorian and salutatorian of the Zephyr High School Class of 1943. And the story that’s a favorite in our family lore, is that in 1942, Mom’s cousin, Geraldine Triplitt Campbell, arranged a double blind date for our moms with a couple of Mullin boys. Sue, Rebecca’s mother, was set up on the date with my dad. Mom’s date was Buster Bode, who remained a lifelong friend and was Dad’s first Highway Patrol partner.
At the luncheon before Mom’s funeral, Rebecca’s brother Jim told me Sue had told them, after the war, when she and Mom were living in Brownwood, Max would bring Dad to town for their dates. Sue confessed, she didn’t know what to do, what to say to him, or why Max came.
“He’s smitten,” Mom said. “He’s coming to see you.”
Oh this aside. Our parents kidding Zephyr/Mullin rivalry lasted all of their 50-plus married years. The truth is, and the lesson we learned from their quibbling, was be proud of where we were from, but just as proud of where we were for the present.
Our parents came as close as humanly possible to living happily ever-after, which makes the tragedy of each of their debilitating and lingering end-of-life afflictions all the sadder and the thought they are together again now, especially comforting.
I remember Aunt Sue telling me when I was a young mother, “Life is just so daily.” The long explanation of that was, through the really hard struggles, when times are the toughest, we seem to manage. It’s the heap and pile of the little daily aggravations we seem to let get us down. The advice nugget in it all was to make less of the not-really-important, and more of what is.
Their happiness, we can all agree, stemmed from the most basic and primal life practices of doing all the good they could, the best they could with as much zeal as they could muster. They were wise, and kind, caring and compassionate. They were industrious and bent on working hard, keeping busy.
They took the time to enjoy life at its most grand moments and in its simplest of times and kept the faith that in its worst of times it would get better.
We were blessed to know them, and are so very grateful.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is an instructional assistant and freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly bi-weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.