“Farewell, Irene, where your dreams abound…You dream of the north, Irene. Well then that’s where you oughta be…” (2016) Irene. Recorded and composed by: Courtney Marie Andrews
As I introduce you to my fabulous cousin, Irene, allow me to lay down a teaser right here. In a few lines I will deliver a shocker, a twist in my spotlighting of this precious and beloved lady.
When I think of cousins, my memory projects mental Super 8 footage of summer days chasing each other with water guns. I have snapshots in my childhood haze riding double on horses, bareback through the pastures. Notably, there’s always visions of playground swings, chasing the ice cream truck down the street, family reunions in the park, and visiting our grandparents together. Cousins were, and are, so much fun.
Entering stage left, my cousin, Irene.
When I was little, I had trouble calling her, “Irene”. My understanding the word, “Ring” came out of my mouth. I was able to overcome that problem.
Over the Easter weekend, the old band got together for a bit of a reunion performance for a Messianic Passover event way north of our home in Dallas. For a Texan, Oklahoma is north-enough. I drove myself up to Enid, Oklahoma, in the northwestern part of the state, for our musical adventure. The long drive gave me lots of time to freshen up my vocals before arriving at the venue in the late afternoon. We had played there two years ago. At that time, after a Facebook posting about the gig in Enid, my cousin, Irene, replied with a tad of chastisement for not informing her. It was my mistake in that I was under the impression she and her husband resided in southwestern Oklahoma, closer to Altus where her mom lived. Turns out, she lives closer to the Kansas/Oklahoma border, in Tonkawa, OK, just another thirty miles or so north of my turn-off for Enid. So, I promised her then I would contact her ahead of time if I’m in that area again. As you can see, we finally got together. Here’s the beauty with two of her pals and my ugly mug.
(We have Cherokee in our family tree. The features show up so much more through her branch of the family. Her mother, my Aunt Evelyn, was very much the same way.)
Although we had kept in touch over the decades, it was always through emails, texts, and Facebook. Rarely were we hanging out for family picnics. Literally, the last time we physically sat together was at our uncle’s memorial service in 1977. It’s such a shame to only see the ones you love at times of sorrow. Do you know what I mean?
What a terrific visit. It’s amazing what you can learn about others when you actually sit and talk face to face. I knew she was an artist, photographer, and an avid activist, a gifted musician, but there’s so much more to my cousin, Irene than I once knew. Part of her artwork is landscaping. Her property is a testament to the fact.
I must say, it’s vastly different from the natural brush country in that part of the state. She’s turned it into a showplace. It reminded me so much of the Dallas Arboretum Park. (Google for photos.) Truly a professional would be amazed.
Part of her array of gifts surrounds being active in charity work and fundraisers. She has donated many items for local charity auctions. One of the things she is known for is her artwork on chairs. You saw the cover photo at the top, by the title, of her in action. Here’s another example of her artsy eye on old unwanted furnishings.
(Collaboration Art by: Irene Ackerson & Gene Doughtery)
These chairs go for a few hundred dollars at various auctions. You can see why.
Irene stays very busy. She is well traveled and well educated. She and her husband were teachers, loving the craft of education. She is a talented canvas painter. An active animal lover, Irene rescues dogs, as well as, dog-sitting for others in the community. Somehow she walks multiple dogs at the same time. I struggle walking two of them. My dear cousin collects items of interest, much in the realm of artwork, from all over the world, decorating her home with such. She’s a volunteer for civic and church events. She can be found in the throws of various social and charitable occasions. She probably makes animal balloons, too. These are just some of the things I have missed out on in not getting to know her better.
We both have a good sense of humor, which has been handed down through our family tree. One day, back in the 90’s, she got a real kick when I called her the “Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels) of our family.” The resemblance was authentic. There was a lot of truth to my title for her when we were younger.
(Irene with her oldest son, Jeff.)
Now for the twister of this story about my cousin, Irene. We never played in the playground swings together. We never rode bareback horses through the Texas pastures. We never chased down the ice cream truck. Irene and I never once shot each other with water guns. It’s certainly not because she lived so far north from my stomping grounds. So what’s the mystery?
If you have seen my Facebook page, (Connect with me anytime – Alan Brown, Carrollton, Texas.) then you know she’s not shy about her age. In a recent public post on my Facebook page, Irene mentioned the occasion where we first met. In fact, there is a photo of the moment, which currently I cannot locate in my stacks of family photos. It was 1964. I was four years old, shaking hands with Irene, the beautiful bride!!! (YES, scroll back up for another look at us from Easter weekend.) Irene is actually my mom’s cousin, my 2nd cousin. Not willing to publish her actual age, I will reveal that I will turn 59 in a few days, and Irene is two years older than my mom! Maybe I should add, she’s never had work done. (Haha)
Let it be known, she can run circles around me. We had a very sharp aunt who lived to be 103 who walked faster than I did.
Truly, there’s lots to be said about staying active. There’s lots to be said about keeping the mind youthful and open. There’s lots to be said about nurturing the body, and keeping it moving. Irene has done all of that, and more.
I also think love has much to do with the “youthening” process. Do you agree? Have you noticed? Irene pours out love for others as a way of life, including the animal kingdom. I believe those who chew on hate have bitter, shortened lives. Frankly, that is a biblical concept.
Jesus taught to love one another as we love ourselves. He also went further. He taught we should love the ones we perceive as outcasts, or socially despised. He said so because that is how God loves. In following suit, we find life to be more palatable altogether. Life is sweeter when my mind chooses to love those I normally might not even notice.
Maybe Irene’s teaching days aren’t over. Turns out, I’ve learned a few things observing our Irene.
Love and youthful endurance are grand products of fuel for the race.
“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.” – Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)