"Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century." – Mark Twain
Life didn't suddenly get easy and people didn't suddenly change their spots. But for all of it life has been pretty good with lots of silver linings even when there were grey and black clouds.
It took a lot longer to empty out the flooded areas than was originally planned because in behind the dry year we had a couple more wet ones. And some places never have gone back to what they were before as the land seemed to adopt some of the new lakes and refuse to give them up. Some of the relics of the pre-flood days have completely disappeared, towns chose not to rebuild, landmarks eroded or destroyed. But the parkways and highways were eventually rebuilt and the government used projects like that to get those that wanted to work back at it. People that didn't want to work found themselves out in the cold and that was certainly a surprise to some.
The East Coast is so different that I doubt anyone can adequately explain it. Even more changed are the people left from the experience. While there was a baby boom there was also a great big "die off" of people just like when there are too many animals trying to survive off too small of an area. And no one threw out big bales of hay for them to survive off of. Starvation, disease … and frankly it seemed like some people died just to prove a point and make others feel guilty. I never was so glad to see most of the can't-help-it types take off for greener pasture, though rumor had it they never found it.
As for us and ours, Lee and his family were much in demand because they were so good at demoltion and restoration carpentry. I got my fair share of work as well. Seems people really didn't mind a woman stonemason the way I had expected them to. All folks really want in this life is a good job for a good price done in good time.
I did get a few squirrely looks when I got pregnant that first time. And the looks really got bug-eyed when it was twins and I carried them from job to job. After a while though people just started accepting us as one of those crazy Thompson families from out on Turner Road.
By the time the twins were of an age to start school they had three little sisters and Lee had his first gray hair. His father still likes to rib him about it. It was when the youngest of the three girls was only a couple of weeks old that Papa T and Mr. Thompson both started having health problems. Then suddenly Grams was just gone all in a week after a fall that broke her hip. Papa T nearly followed her but seemed to pull back and was with us another five years before getting called Home.
This transition time gave the family the opportunity to find their footing and spread out into a healthier distance, taking more responsibility rather than expecting the patriarchs and matriarchs to have ultimate say on everything. And though some distance was created, at least in this part of the county you're a Thompson by name, by blood, or by marriage. There are very few who can really be said not to be kin in some way … even if it is the long way around. The kids all complain of having to compare genealogies just to make sure they aren't dating a close cousin of some type.
The land has healed though every where you look there's reminders of that decade of lunacy the world went through. It is against international law to even think about fooling with the weather. They're still remapping in places around the world … and counting the dead as excavations reveal piles of bones of the missing and unaccounted for. The preacher says it's unlikely all those piles will be revealed until Judgment Day. I can believe it.
Lee did finally go back and finish his college education when someone on the county's historical society offered to fund it if he'd do pro bono work for them for a certain number of years. I wondered at first if I would feel left behind – especially when he started polishing up and seemed less and less the boy and young man he'd been early in our relationship – but I wound up being so busy that all I have felt was proud. The twins will likely follow their father into architecture though we've told our brood not to expect a free ride as they need to work to prove they want it bad enough.
I think one or two of the girls may go apprentice with their Aunt June. She and Josh Daniel did get married. They've had their ups and downs like most people but over all it's been successful. They surprised us all by choosing not to have children of their own. Their decision and none of my business but it makes me uncomfortable when Uncle Jerry starts giving them the sad eyes when the kids and I are around. That's the only thing however that makes me uncomfortable about my uncle.
Uncle Jerry is a changed man. I could say it is his marriage to Aunt Cici that has done it – and I still have trouble calling her that after all this time – being on the receiving end of all that abuse, but that would only be part of it. It could be seeing Todd Michael turn out like he has, burning through three wives, more 'shine than can be measured, and abusing all of 'em. Todd Michael finally wound up in a sanitorium and we all pray that he gets some help in getting his head on straight. Mostly I think Uncle Jerry has changed because he's finally give up and just let God. Whatever it was or is, he's now the man I needed him to be after my family died. Some might say he's a day late and a dollar short but I'm not complaining. Things happen, when they happen, for a reason even when you can't divine those reasons.
And Lee has kept his promise; we do come up to the cave pretty regular. Some years it is less and some years more but we still come. In fact that's where we are right now. Lee asked if I minded if he has some of the family up this time so they could hunt together and clear off some of the deer that seem to want to strip the mountain tops this year they're so numerous. Like I was going to tell him no. I'm expecting number eight – most likely number last too as every pregnancy has gotten harder as the babies have gotten bigger. Being roughly the size of the Mt. Mitchell fire tower I am thankful not to have to do all of the processing myself.
I'm so big in fact I make all the men nervous and they finally begged me just to sit and stop waddling around and giving them palpitations. Since I was so inclined anyway I've been doing just that but since I've never been one who could sit and do nothing this family history is the result.
But vacation is over and just in time too. I've run out of pages in my spiral bound notebook and I've got a back ache … I won't tell Lee yet, I don't need him turning green and keeling over this early. He's been with me at each confinementbut but still hasn't quite recovered from having to deliver the last one himself when a winter storm made the roads impassable.
I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring but it should be interesting and we'll survive. I've made sure we've made a habit of it.