"They're selling Cecil's house."
This was texted to me by my daughter last night. The only Cecil I knew was a great-uncle on my mother's side who passed away many years ago, so she surely wasn't talking about him.
I texted her back. "Cecil who?"
I kinda sat there not moving because the first thing that I thought of was that Emma, his wife, had passed away only I never heard anything about it.
I immediately put her name in Google and sure enough she passed away two years ago.
Only no one told me about it.
My world kinda fell apart at that point as I read her online obituary:
Survivors include four children; Margaret Smith and her husband, Jim, of
Craddockville, VA, Cecil F. Tilghman, Jr. and his wife, Darlene, of
Julie Ann Tilghman Culbertson and her husband, Jerry, of Crisfield, MD,
and Tracy T. Dunn of Onley, VA; a sister, Jean M. Parker and her
husband, Kendall, of Hampton, VA; five grandchildren and eleven great-
grandchildren. She was predeceased by a grandson, Harry Tilghman.
And no one told me about it.
I didn't know who to blame - my family for not letting me know or myself for not keeping in touch with them. Emma played a major role in my life and I never got the chance (or took the chance) to go see her in her final days and tell her. I always wanted to but somehow there was never a convenient time.
It all started back in the early sixties when my sister and I were sent to live with my grandmother. Uncle Cecil, Emma, and their kids, Julie and Tracee, lived next door. We had family on that whole block - kinda weird when you think about it but I loved it. All my cousins lived a short walk away and plenty of kids to play with. It was a small town and coming from California was culture shock even though I was only ten years old.
My grandmother didn't have a whole lot to give except love, and Emma being right next door was right there with anything my sister and I needed. I remember her tomato sandwiches more than anything - they were the yummiest. My sister and I were always invited for lunch whenever we were hanging around and there were always these tomato sandwiches and sweet tea to quench our thirst. We would giggle and Uncle Cecil would have to yell, "Hear hear!" And that made us giggle even more. I remember having to go to the bathroom to settle down because Uncle Cecil could get pretty darn mad if provoked enough.
It was a wonderful summer catching lightning bugs in mason jars, setting up skits and charging the adults 5 cents a head and riding bikes until the sun went down.
School started, new friendships were born but along with that came hardships as my grandmother struggled to feed us and keep us warm. I remember our old gas stove started spitting out black soot all over the place and Emma opened up her house to us. I loved taking showers - something I didn't have at my grandmother's. I also remember not having lunch to take to school and I had to go next door to ask Emma if she minded loaning me four pieces of bread. She never ever made me feel like a beggar as she handed me the bread with a smile on her face. I also remember when we started playing softball at school and we were all required to have softball gloves. Only I didn't own one and I knew getting the money for one was out of the question. Emma loaned me Julie's. And I also remember snow on the ground and not having any boots. Emma loaned me Uncle Cecil's so I could play in the snow.
These are only a few things I remember about this gracious woman. It would fill a book. And I find out she has died. And no one bothered to tell me about it. God rest Emma Frances Marion Tilghman. I only hope you know how much you meant to me.