It started off like any normal week. Still hot and dry and no rain in sight. Word reached me that my last surviving elder relative, Aunt Eve Duplantis Lemaire, had died at age 105. I had spent time with her on her birthday April 4. She ate like a longshoreman and appeared to be poised to move on to 106. Like her mom, Grandma Availa, and her siblings, she didn’t have any of the common illnesses like heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. They were all astonishingly healthy until the bus came to get them. Out of the blue Eve fell ill and it took only 10 days before she caught the bus to Heaven.

I’ve written her story before. She was an amazing, hard-working woman who fed all the workers three squares a day on a large rice plantation. She buried all her folks and her husband of 70 years. She buried some of her grandchildren and her eldest child, who was injured at Pearl Harbor. She had grandma’s strength and never wavered, never complained or blamed. She accepted what came down the pike as God’s will. She had a Catholic Church funeral. She looked so pretty in that casket with few wrinkles, beautiful hands, just like my mom had. I heard 60 year olds say,” I wished I looked as good as she does night now.” I guess sometimes in life there are faulty genes, other times they just line up right adding to a long, healthy life. The realization has hit me that with all of our seniors now gone, Phyl and I have become the folks at the top of the ladder. It’s been a fast ride.

Next some good news. Grandson Jason was in from his third tour in Iraq. He didn’t get in under the wire and has to give that hellish place 15 months. I pray for him every day. He just has nine more months in the war zone. He looks remarkably well and extremely fit. He left Sunday but it was great to see him. He has in his special duties witnessed way too much. He does us proud.

For over 50 years, Phyl has been trying to surprise me with a birthday party. I guess my sinister ways make me aware and suspicious so I’m hard to trap. Anyway, with daughter Karen’s help, this time she got me good.

Before that however, when we returned from the funeral in Abbeville, Johnny Montagne showed up at the house with his annual rendition of kidney stew. It’s become a tradition. He makes it every year for my birthday. It was even better than the year before but his hardest job was finding fresh kidneys.

I showed up at our Wednesday Lunch Bunch meeting at Van’s a little early only to find that Phyl, Karen, Mark, Sharon, our office staff and a roomful of the world’s greatest people, the Lunch Bunch, were present. I was really surprised. It took me a while to snap to what was really happening. I had been had and really good. I took down the names of those who weren’t there. It was great and I thank everyone who came.

The next day Fadra Thibeaux fixed a great hen gumbo with sausage for the family and Jason, who was visiting his brother Chris in Houston, joined us. Everything was lovely until the phone rang. Son Allen wouldn’t be coming to the party, his home was on fire. The firefighters couldn’t save it. He lost everything. He was the treasurer of our ‘one of a kind’ family artifacts. He had just returned from several weeks of working in New Hampshire and was cleaning up the grounds when he noticed the electrical fine. I feel for anyone who loses everything. I went through that in 1961. There’s a big cleanup job ahead and everything from toothbrush to socks must be replaced, plus a roof over his head. I know he’s resilient enough to bounce back.

Father’s Day is next Sunday. I never had one around ‘as an example of’ how a dad fathers. Phyl points out that I was never a kid. There is a lot of truth in that due to the fact that I was in the workforce at an early age through emergency. Discipline or lack of it is what caused me problems trying to be a father. I was raised strict, to do as I was told or pay the consequences. I sometimes went the other way and gave too much, made it too easy. I had to realize times had changed. Children no longer were expected to help support the family. I tried my best to be a good dad and I hope in some ways I have been successful. I wish a great Father’s Day to all of you dads.

And so it is with the sweet and sour of one week in a long life. The thrill and agony, the rain and sunshine that comes to everyone Down Life’s Highway.