Like ghosts, late-morning mists hovered momentarily over the mountain, winding their way upward to lose themselves in the low-lying clouds. Up on the ridge the old tower stood stately firm, a shell of its former glory. We wound our way along the river road, the pavement still glazed from morning rains.
Down the interstate we flew, making the Pennsylvania border in record time, then coasted into Milford, where we turned southwest to begin the descent through the long green valley. Off to our left through the trees we caught glimpses of the grey Delaware. A wild turkey strutted through the brush; an oriole darted across the road into the trees. A short detour twisted through a stand of dense forest.
We turned off at Smithfield, picking up the shortcut that my uncle had told us about decades ago. Shortly, we glided over the crest of the hill and dropped down into the old town. We pulled into a parking space, crossed the street and slipped inside the church just in time to catch my cousin’s eulogy, the prayers, the creed, and a few familiar hymns from long ago.
The graveside interment was brief. The hillside lay dotted with flags freshly planted for the Memorial Day remembrance. We returned to our cars and headed out to the banquet facility on the hill.
I met my cousin at the entrance. “It was a good talk,” I told him.
“I almost didn’t get through it,” he said.
“You did fine. I liked your description of what it was like when your dad would get home at the end of the day, pulling into the driveway, jingling the change in his pocket, humming some old tune.”
“It was the best part of the day for him—and for us.”
We filed inside and found our seats at one of the long tables. It had been years—fourteen, in fact—since I had sat down to break bread with my extended family, the remnant of aunts, uncles and cousins I had grown up with. I shook hands and exchanged hugs, recalling snatches of their personal histories, knowing that they knew mine. Collectively, a family grows, breaks, gathers together to bind up its wounds and moves on.
We ate and reminisced, stood and shook hands, introducing ourselves to the younger set we hadn’t seen in years. Finally, before dessert, we sat to sing my uncle’s favorite, “Show me the way to go home.”
It was a shorter drive back up the valley to the interstate. Despite patches of heavy fog and steady rain along the extensive stretch of darkened highway, we navigated our way through the night back home.