It was a huge surprise when Jeanne Shuman, mother of two, ages 10 and 9, found out she was pregnant again. I was raised solo by Florence Shuman and Ida Neal Burnsed. Selah.
Needless to say I was very introverted at Bryan County High School. But I thought I had a pretty good arm so I tried to play baseball for Albert Lodge. Winning the 1985 Region Championship at Brewton Parker resulted in wild celebration on the field, but it was actually a coup de grace for me, a shy freshman who was brought in to bunt occasionally but mostly kept the bench nice and warm all season long. When the dust settled, it was time to take a picture. I saw that picture the other day. I was standing behind the entire group, peaking through a gap. You can see about a third of my face.
I pray I never forget what happened just moments after that picture was taken. They say the earliest of memories are the ones you will keep the longest. I’m keeping this one. As I followed the team to the bus, I looked up and saw my Aunt Emogene walking directly towards me, looking me directly in the eye. I honestly thought I was in deep trouble. She was always beautiful but she had such an “Alberta” presence about her that commanded respect and fear. Never in the past did I have much of a conversation with her other than a tie straightening at church or maybe a scolding for taking a chicken wing on family night before the blessing. So when I saw her steadfastly approaching me, I began scanning all possibilities of what I had done wrong. She blocked me from going any further. She straightened the shoulder of my jersey as she said, “Stand up straight. Look at me.”
There was a heavy pause, and then she began to smile. She said the following: “I see you......... I see you back there.....and I know you........ I am watching you....... You are special........ Special.” And then she walked away.
That moment tweaked me in a way that stopped the vibration as I traveled, you know? And it began a life altering relationship that I will always cherish. Soon after that I became licensed to drive. And though I may have had intentions to cruise around Pembroke, I would always pull in behind Uncle Thomas’ Silverado and sit down with my Aunt Emogene. She wanted to know what I was doing in detail. We would talk about anything that was going on, but mostly about Grandma and Granny, Papa and Aunt Alberta, and especially the Bible. The respect I had for her corralled me. I always wanted to impress her. Never disappoint her. That is the definition of respect. I love her. I miss her.
Check this out. There was a select group of gentlemen I was blessed to be a part of as we celebrated Aunt Emogene’s entry into Heaven. Everyone stood in respect as we escorted her to the front of the church. We as pallbearers then moved to the designated pew, standing, waiting for the invitation to sit down. We got the signal, attempted to sit down in one motion, but the sum width of our behinds was slightly greater than the width of the pew, causing us men to literally get wedged in there together. I happened to be on the end, so I promptly smiled at Nelson, popped out, and sat alone, on the row behind the entire group, peeking through a gap.
Coincidence? No way.
Shuman was born and raised in Pembroke.