Our family began having its family reunion when we were still living in Ohio, and the first year we came from several different states to celebrate our connection. But the most wonderful part of the reunion was that the patriarch, Felix L. McHaney, my dad, was there to celebrate with us. For the first several years he was an inspiration to us. At his advanced age he still flew alone from Memphis, Tennessee, to Atlanta where either my sister in Augusta or I in Aiken picked him up and escorted him to the beach. Most years we had three big houses because there were so many of us around 30. Believe me, he ate his full share of shrimp, even telling my husband once, “Bill, we’ve run out of shrimp. It’s time to buy more.”
We celebrated his 90th birthday in style with a huge reception at his church in Leachville, Arkansas, on September 16, 2006. On that occasion he “worked the room” like a man running for governor. Everything was normal and WONDERFUL.
2007 was another reunion and this one was very special. My sister had t-shirts inscribed with “McHaney University” which celebrated the fact that all of Dad’s grandchildren had graduated from college and that among his four children we share seven degrees. That year was his last year at the beach. By 2008 he had developed vascular dementia and was placed in a nursing home close to his friends and some special family members.
We had our reunion in 2008 but it wasnt the same because the ‘glue’ was gone. Last summer we celebrated in a different way because it was my husband and my 50th wedding anniversary and our children planned a great trip to Gatlinburg for all of us.
This year we will be back, even though Dad wont be with us. He celebrates his 94th birthday this year but usually he doesn’t even know who we are when we visit him. The memories of Edisto, however, keep the REAL Felix alive for us, and we will toast him often with wine and shrimp!