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Second cousin, twice removed

Howard has a large extended family. I should know; I created it.

Through his job at the Plantagenet he knows a lot of people (some he would rather not, but that’s a number of other stories for other times). He was also the de facto foster son of Hal Holt, whose family have been the caretakers of local history for four generations. Through Hal, Howard had access to as much of that history as he could stomach—which was a lot. And through his own large, extended and widely distributed family and its connections with other lines prominent in community history, I’m hardpressed to imagine anyone better positioned to write about Agincourt. [If I could, I suppose I would. But Howard has become too close a friend for that to happen.]

Sometimes he surprises me. Like this letter to his sister Catherine, that none of us was supposed to read; I’ve deleted most personal names. Catherine LaFarge and her family live in Vermont.

Sunday afternoon

Dear Cat—

Someone may have already told you that _______ died yesterday. I guess the phone or an e-mail would have been quicker, but I have a pen-and-paper fetish (you know me so well) and decided to scratch these words out with a new fountain pen on some laid paper I found at Mom’s. Loading the pen with ink and waiting until Rowan left to run some errands has given me time to recollect—I invest a lot of time in that these days anyway, So focussing on _______ was welcome diversion, especially during this bloody fiscal cliff debate. “‘When will it be done?’ he asked plaintively.”

I saw _______ a couple weeks ago. We ran into each other at the meat counter in Dykeman’s—Rowan and I were having the “Monday Night Irregulars” over and I wanted to try a new chicken recipe. _______ looked well enough, certainly not someone who’d be dead in a fortnight. Looks deceive. They surely had for _______—he’d be the first to admit.

All things considered, I’m surprised he spoke to me, despite being related somehow—through one of great-grandmother Tennant’s older sisters. [I’ve misplaced the family tree and wonder if you have a copy. Aunt Phyllis could have sorted things out.] _______ had some axe to grind about disinheritance or some nonsense. G-g Martha received something his branch of the family should have got. What really got under his skin was simple: she did things with the money—gave it away to causes and projects and such; invested it in human capital. Mother never saw any of it—much to her relief.

In my view, _______ grasped for everything that came within reach and clutched it close to his chest thereafter. The Ghost of Xmas Past could have visited our “cousin” to good effect. It’ll be interesting to see who’s mentioned in the LW&T: certainly none of us. You know how he felt about me: an “incomplete human being” in his own words.

The obituary in Monday’s paper will be short, business-like, low key. I should know: I wrote it this morning. Some folks will think I’m sweeping family dirt ‘neath an already lumpy carpet. You’ll be a better judge than I, so I’m enclosing a copy of the final draft.

Will you, Jim and the kids be here for Xmas? I’ve reserved a “room at the inn.” Rowan sends his love, as do I.

Messages are often unclear—poorly sent or half received; stories remain incomplete. Even Truth can be half-told. So here is an obituary notice from the Monday Plantagenet which may—or may not—be the topic of his letter to Catherine:

AREA DEATHS

BUXTON, Alfred—Died at his home in Agincourt, Alfred Buxton passed from life in the company of friends and family. He was fifty-two years old. Buxton was born at Nimby on November 11th 1960 and attended local schools, graduating from Fennimore County High School in 1978. He joined Byrne & Co. as an accountant and rose through the company’s management.

Buxton was active in the Presbyterian church. An uncompromising conservate, he served as treasurer of the Fennimore County Central Committee of the Republican Party for the past four years. He is survived by his brother Craig and sister Lucille Bancroft and several nieces and nephews. He was unmarried.

Don’t tell Howard I shared this. I suspect there is more to the story.

 

 


2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ron…. your stories and essays are always the highlight of my day. Some time soon you will have to take me on a guided tour of Agincourt where… like its sister city…. Lake Wobegon… the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are all above average.

    thanks… Jim

  2. Anonymous says:

    Poor Alfred Buxton… passing on at what I now consider to be the young age of 52. My mother died at 56 and now, being considerably beyond that age, I mourn for all the life she missed.

    I love the additional details you have included in this version… but then again, I seem to love everything you write. Keep up the great work… I look forward to more!

    Jim

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