Papa was a sharecropper and lived on a local farm owned by the Boagni family. He farmed for them and for his own family. He also raised cattle and pigs and often shared the fruits of his work with his extended family. When we go older, Papa would let us drive on the shell road where they lived which was always a treat. Papa drove a standard and never started in first gear, for whatever reason he always started in second gear. and how much I miss them.
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Papa came from a family that had ten children. His parents were Isidore and Aloysia. His baby sister, I believe named Mable, died as a baby, and in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic he lost five of his brothers Belizere, William, Edmond, Isidore and his twin Emile within two weeks when they lived in the Whiteville area. The ones who survived was his older brother, Theodule, and his younger twin siblings Jules & Julia, and himself.
Papa’s parents were extremely poor and did not have money to purchase burial plots for their sons. Someone who was a member of the Methodist Church in Whiteville donated a burial plot and all five sons were buried in the one plot. In the 1950s, Papa went to Whiteville and found the church and the simple, handmade burial marker where his brothers laid. Years later, their nieces and nephews put in together and purchased a proper burial marker for their uncles. It is hard imagine losing five children within a two-week period. How their parents must have grieved for their lost children.
Momo came from a family of nine; a brother Emery was lost at age sixteen due to a vehicle accident. Her parents, John and Hermina, were also poor. I never knew what type of work Pop John did nor knew much about him. He passed away in 1969 while we were living in Germany. Hermina had a stroke either shortly before or shortly after I was born. I never knew her to speak and she used a wheelchair. Her hair was braided and clipped across her head, and I can still see picture one of her daughters braiding her hair with while she was in her wheelchair in front of a mirror in her living room. She died in 1962 and at the funeral home, Momo wanted me to kiss “mamina” (Hermina). I was four years old at the time and I was afraid if I kissed her, I would die too. I may have thought this due to seeing a woman and her infant child in a coffin in an adjourning room at the funeral home. In my mind I must have thought the infant died because of being with his/her mother. To this day I have not touched a dead person, not even mom when she died in 2014.
Papa died from natural causes in 1992, the day after Hurricane Andrew hit our area. Momo died in 1998 also of natural causes. I miss them both and often think of not verbally telling them I love them. It was not something that was usually said by them or with us. Showing love and affection was not something they did as we think of today, however they showed it in other ways. If I could tell them both something today, it would be how much I loved and appreciated them and how much I miss them.