A Family Reunion  

By: Brenda Jackson


His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me…

Ethan Allen Bennett had lived a very long life, and today he felt every bit of his eighty-nine years. Each time he closed his eyes seeking a peaceful moment, he heard the sweet sound of his late wife, Idella, softly singing the lyrics of her favorite church song.

Since he was blessed not to have Alzheimer’s, it must be his imagination, he concluded ruefully, closing his eyes once more to enjoy the spiritual melody. He was sitting in his favorite chair in a room that was kept warm by the huge old-fashioned heater. It was a heater that had been in his home pretty close to sixty years. After Idella’s death ten years ago his six children, worried about his solitary state, had wanted to come in and modernize the place. For starters, they had wanted to remove his heater and replace it with central heat and air.

“That heater’s no longer any good. It’s dangerous,” his eldest son, Ethan Junior, had declared louder than a Baptist preacher on a first Sunday morning. And as usual the other five siblings had agreed.

“That heater warmed all of your backsides at one time or another,” Ethan Senior had forcefully reminded them. “It stays and so does everything else. Everything stays just like your mama left it.”

And that had settled that.

They had not understood that when a man had been married to a woman for over sixty years, like he had been married to his Idella, and the other half departed to meet their Maker, the one left behind needed something of her to remember, to hold on to, and to cherish, even if it was the one picture on the wall that absolutely rattled his grands and great-grands during their visits. It was the huge picture of the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus that had been hanging in that very spot on the wall for over forty-five years.

Jesus, as Idella had visualized him to be, was flanked by a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., on one side and one of John F. Kennedy, Sr., on the other. A picture of Robert Kennedy—not as large as the others but just as visible—had been added years later and hung underneath Jesus. Until the end Jesus had been Idella’s Savior, the Almighty, the calm in the wake of a storm, the Prince of Peace. Martin, John, and Bobby had been her boys, her heroes who could do no wrong. She would defend their honor to her dying days. In fact, she had.

Ethan heard the singing once again.

It was at times like these, when he was all alone, that he missed his Idella more than at other times. It would probably be somewhat different if he was still allowed to drive; then he could spend more time at the Masonic Lodge every day. Right now he had to depend on his children to take him wherever he wanted to go. Although he knew they didn’t mind, he didn’t like being a burden to anyone.

He hated that he’d let them talk him into giving up his driver’s license but had understood their reasoning. He would be the first to admit that his eyesight wasn’t as good as it used to be. Besides, it was either giving up his license or agreeing to their suggestion of installing one of those devices to have some emergency service monitor his house every evening, since he lived alone. He definitely hadn’t wanted that. Nor had he wanted to follow their other suggestion of letting his oldest great-grand, sixteen-year-old Jerrell, live with him. He loved his first great-grand to death, but the boy played his music too loud to suit him. Although Ethan’s eyesight wasn’t what it used to be, so far he didn’t have any problem with his hearing and wanted to keep it that way. Living with Jerrell would damage his eardrums for sure.

He heard the singing once more.

I sang because I’m happy. I sang because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.

He wondered just how happy Idella would be in knowing the sorrowful state of the family she had left behind. How would she feel to know that her baby boy, Victor Senior, was now on his third wife and had so many outside children it had become a joke to everyone.

But not to Ethan.

Outside or inside, they were still his grandchildren, grandchildren he would claim although he didn’t even know half of them.

And what about his grands that he did know about? Last count there were fifteen. Two by way of Ethan Junior, three from Joe, three by way of Emery, one from Prentice, one by way of Colleen—his deceased daughter—and the rest from his youngest son, Victor Senior. Ethan Senior had seen his fifteen grandchildren off and on over the years but never together and never at the same time. At least not since the last family reunion      , fifteen years ago. Everyone had enjoyed themselves and had had a good time, not knowing that in less than five years the matriarch of the Bennett family, his Idella, would pass away peacefully in her sleep. Since then there hadn’t been any more reunion      s. There were seldom any visits. Everyone was busy doing their own thing. Last he’d heard, his grandson Victor Junior was busy making babies, outside babies, just like his father had done. Lord knows the boy got it honest.

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