This past weekend Lisa and I drove nine hours south to Alabama for her family’s reunion. It was a very quick trip and we are now back in Ohio for our final six weeks before heading home and taking some time off.
I have great admiration for Lisa’s family and there seems to be a genuine love for one another and for outsiders such as myself. They have always been warm and welcoming to me and to the McFarland branch of the tree. Having very little family myself, Lisa’s people have become my people and I can’t imagine how it might be for me without them.
Neither my mom or dad had brothers or sisters and my brother and I never had any first cousins. My dad’s mom died when he was a baby and we never knew his father as he passed away when we were very young. When my brother died in 1987 followed by my dad and mom a few years later, I had very few relatives left. With the exception of some distant cousins who I have only occasional contact, I am all that is left. God has blessed me with wonderful children and grandchildren that fill any void in my life and add to that Lisa’s family – and I can say my cup runneth over.
I have to admit that I feel a twinge of envy listening to Lisa and her cousins reminiscing about their childhoods and the adventures of growing up together. On Friday night, Lisa’s female cousins gathered in our hotel room and shared funny stories of the past and present. I watched as these women sprawled across the bed like teenagers and laughed at the funny tales being told, much like I imagine they did forty or more years ago. I took a spot in the corner of the room and tried to stay out of the mix. (Truthfully. I had no where else to go and if I could have slid under the bed – I would have). It was not until my c-pap machine was spotted that I was brought into the conversation.
My how time and age changes things. Forty years ago I can imagine the conversation with these girl cousins involving topics such as Donnie Osmond and their new stereos. Friday night the discussion was on surgeries, female hot flashes and c-pap machines. One of Lisa’s cousins told the funny story of having her first experience using her c-pap and how the setting was so high, it caused her lips to flutter “like a dog hanging his head out of the window of a race car”. Good times! Fortunately the late night cousin conversation came to an end soon after that and before it could devolve into trying to outdo one another with detailed descriptions of their most recent surgeries.
I am relieved that I no longer have to explain to people what I do for a living, the most common question at reunions. When I was first introduced to the family, it was always the first question asked. “So, Steve, what do you do?” I would then feel the need to explain my mundane job in as impressive and self-important terms as possible. There was the fear in those early years in the “Cunningham” family, that if the truth came out that I really had a rather boring job with an embarrassingly low salary, there may be a caucus in a back room somewhere deciding I was “Out!”. That never happened and Lisa’s family members have always been accepting of their Kentucky hillbilly cousins. For that I will love them forever. I suppose the interest in what “I do” will be on every relatives mind until they gather at my funeral (I imagine, even then, someone will lean over my corpse and ask, “So, Steve, what do you do?”) Being retired, my answer to that question now is very simple, “Nothing”. Next question?
The truth is these are some of the most welcoming people I have ever known. Lisa’s aunt JoAnn never fails to screech out your name and declare how wonderful it is to see you. And, I think, she really means it. That is a real gift.
I am appreciative of a family that cherishes being together. Despite political or religious differences, there is a sense of care and concern that overrides any disagreements. Age is now starting to catch up with the brothers and sisters, cousins and kin and father time marches on in all our lives. Our time together should always be spent loving and laughing, remembering good times and cherishing what we have left.
I’m glad God gave me this family to reunite with.