Sixteen years have passed since the last time I was in Arkansas. I went to Searcy last to see my grandfather's sister, who then was the only survivor of her family of origin. During that trip, she gave me a tour of the old Searcy of importance to my family. The Eubanks went back in that town to the 1890s. My great-grandfather at one time was superintendent of schools, my grandfather developed into a successful businessman after some youthful flailing. My father fully intended to raise his family there, just as the two generations before him.
He did not count on the meddling influence of his step-mother, who treated my father's wife (my mother) like poor white trash. Dad stood silent. Eventually, when I was five, my mother told my father that either "we move, or I move." He got the message and moved us to Hot Springs AR in 1962, then in 1966, up to Missouri where we stayed.
Tomorrow my brothers, Only Son, and I will make the seven hour drive to Searcy AR to bury our father on Monday. Unlike Mom, he opted to have some prayers said at his graveside. In that area of the country, I didn't want to take a chance with a rent-a-preacher as my family doesn't need an ambush at the committal ceremony. Thankfully, the Rev Patrick Barker of Trinity Episcopal Church in Searcy agreed to perform the Committal from the Book of Common Prayer. We will meet with him probably just before.
Back to my grandfather. We visited a lot, and I continued to visit as a young married woman with my then husband and Only Son. My step grandmother died in 1988 after a long goodbye caused by Alzheimer's. She was one of the most hateful people I have met to this day, and although her funeral was well attended, she was not mourned. She had driven so much of our family away (shades of the Angry White Man) that I had not seen my grandfather in a few years before she went into the nursing home. Grandad seemed to be liberated by her death: "I can repair my family!" So we now adult grandchildren resumed the frequent (as our jobs would allow) treks to Arkansas with our children, and the old man loved it.
In 1989 I had some time between jobs, so I spent a week with Grandad in Searcy. He was in the hospital after prostate surgery. We had lovely, sage conversation and my idea of him as one of the best men I've ever known resumed. I had to leave after a week to complete my move and start my new job. He seemed to be doing well; my great-aunt had hired a new caretaker, who seemed very sweet, and of course the great-aunt was there, so I had no problems leaving.
Grandad came home from the hospital, sat down in his favorite chair, and died. I had just gotten to my parents' house from Searcy the day before. We all had commitments and could not attend his funeral. Dad went alone to bury his father.
So tomorrow we return to Searcy to bury our father. He had not been back since his father's funeral, and had not lived there for almost fifty, yet he felt called to seek his final rest there. Family was the pull back. Family will take him home.