1. Family Reunion

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When the Old Lady finally died, at the age of 94, peacefully, they said, in her home in Jackson Hole, there was no immediate reason for any of her many descendants to make the trip out to Wyoming.  Edna Gilmer Brody Tindall Cushing, 1913 – 2007, had survived four husbands, including the one ex-husband, Gilmer. She outlived all of her friends.  She was not herself from the West, but she bought the land in the 1980s in, for her, an unusual display of love for Les Cushing, her fourth and last husband. He was the only one of her husbands by whom she had no children.  Les was from Colorado and loved the West.  With the significant wealth that the Old Lady inherited from Tindall, husband number three who had died in 1967, she and Les built a magnificent rustic retreat on the property, a 6000 square foot house on 10 acres of land, five bedrooms, four baths, huge living room, picture windows with commanding views of the Tetons.  The extended family called it Ranch House, even though the property was not technically a ranch. After Les died in 1998, the Old Lady had continued to live in the Ranch House, pretty much cutting all her ties to Boston, where most of her descendants still lived.

The Old Lady’s will was in good order.  It specified that her body be cremated “without a service or ceremony of any kind.” Her ashes were to be held until they could be “scattered by my descendants in the mountains at the most beautiful time of year.” The Old Lady died in May, but her local lawyer, after conferring with the Old Lady’s two living daughters Helen (nee Gilmer) and Natalie (Tindall, who had never married), and also a granddaughter representing the Old Lady’s third daughter, Betty Brody (who had died in 1994 at the age of 62), decided that the mountains were most beautiful in mid-August. This was conveniently during school vacation and when the weather in Boston would make a trip to Wyoming seem attractive to more of the family.

Of interest to the descendants was the fact that the Old Lady’s will divided her estate, including her personal belongings, her financial assets, and the proceeds from selling her real estate, “among all of my living descendants at the time of my death, each to have an equal share,” a total of 34 individuals ranging in age from 6 months (one of two recently born great-great-grandchildren)  to 77 years (Helen, the first-born daughter).  A third great-great-grandchild, born in June, just missed the deadline.

It was thus for two reasons that twenty six of the eligible individuals, and about a half dozen of their spouses, gathered at the Ranch House in the second week in August, 2007. First, for the mandatory scattering of the ashes, and second (though actually first in everybody’s interest) to divide up the contents of the house, nine decades’ and four husbands’ worth of stuff.  Eligibles who didn’t attend would receive, in due course, a check for their share of the main estate.

As the descendants arrived, claims to bedrooms were asserted and adjusted.  It was understood that children, up to and including teenagers, would bunk on the floor of the living and recreation rooms, somewhat localized by clan. Many of the relatives hardly knew each other.  Years previously, the Old Lady’s descendants had taken to referring to themselves as the “Core Family”, the term perpetuating the joke that, spread horizontally over the Old Lady’s four husbands and vertically over five generations of offspring, there was nothing “core” about them. For that matter, there was very little about them that was “family”.  Although Helen and Natalie were half-sisters, they were separated in age by 23 years.  Natalie, now in her 50s, had only a single child, Geena, born in 1974.  If Natalie knew who Geena’s father was, she certainly had  never told anyone in the family.  Natalie and Geena shared the smallest of the five bedrooms.  Helen, now the surviving matriarch, was given two bedrooms to allocate among herself, her two grown children (and one son-in-law), and her adult grandchildren, in their late twenties and early 30s, five of whom were present.  There were not enough beds, but there were sofas and thick sheepskin rugs.

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