The Family Plot

Most families don’t have a family plot. Mine does. It’s at the Greenwood Cemetery close to downtown Orlando, and my family has been buried there since the 1930s. It’s on the first hill as you drive in, and family legend has it that J. Ray Arnold purchased the plot under the conditions that no other families would be buried on the hill in front of them, so there would be a clear view of the lake, which didn’t end up happening and really angered Uncle Charlie.

We were there this weekend for Uncle Charlie’s funeral, and every time I visit it’s surreal. The extended Arnold family doesn’t get together for much aside from funerals, and being there makes me think of all the funerals that happened before and the ones to come. At least four generations of Arnolds have visited that same spot for the last 70 years, and there’s something comforting about that. Uncle Charlie took a lot of pride in the cemetery and making sure that the city keeps up with the grounds around our plot. Uncle Charlie and my Papa were both golfers, and at Papa’s funeral in 2005 we dropped Titlest golf balls into the grave site. It was the only ball that he would play with. They loved to play golf together and were hustlers on the course. My cousin Jeff, Uncle Charlie’s son, said that in going through Uncle Charlie’s things, he found a score card from 1947 with the score of 59.

Any funeral is difficult, but seeing the eldest Arnold man be buried is particularly tough. Papa and Uncle Charlie really tried to keep the family together, and now that they’re gone I don’t know what will happen. I’m not particularly close with my second cousins, but at least I know them and we get along and have decent conversation. We all spent Saturday night together and I know I would have been friends with my Orlando cousins if I had lived here.

When Uncle Charlie graduated from high school, his graduating class had 9 girls and 6 boys. Three of the “boys” lived til their 90’s, and now there is only one left. He spoke at the funeral, and it was really the highlight of the service for me. Can you imagine being friends for 80 years? As soon as he started speaking I realized that it was a once in a life time chance to hear what he had to say, so I busted out my iPhone to record his memories of Uncle Charlie. Here is the link, and if you listen, make sure to turn it up loud because it’s kind of hard to hear.

Rest in peace, Uncle Charlie. I can’t wait until we meet again.

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