Family reunions, gotta love ’em

I have always taken my big family for granted, but I’m starting to view all these wonderful people through different eyes. As a child growing up in the 60s spending time with family was just a way of life. My dad had nine brothers and sisters and my mom had five brothers and sisters so I had an abundance of cousins and just assumed that everyone’s family was like mine. For fun and recreation we would go visit relatives. My dad and most of his brothers also played on a softball team together so our family spent lots of time hanging out at ball parks. Of course, most of my cousins were there also. It was a great way to grow up being surrounded by family.

Life has a way of changing our situations sometimes in such subtle ways that we aren’t even aware of the change happening. I think that is what happened in our family. My aunts and uncles have just been slowly passing away. At each reunion it seems there would be one more empty chair. My dad is now one of only three remaining siblings and my mom is gone along with all her family except one brother. He’s getting too old to travel very far and since he lives in Toledo, we don’t see him very often. When did this happen? How did my cousins and I become the old people?

With the passing of the older generation, the responsibility for continuing the tradition of the family reunion rests on the shoulders of the next generation. Are we too busy? Do we really want to continue? Is it really important that we all spend time catching up?

Yes, we are busy, but we shouldn’t be so busy that we can’t make plans to spend one day a year with family members. In my estimation, it is extremely important to catch up on what other family members are doing. The computer age has made it possible to keep in touch easier, quicker and on a regular basis, but a virtual hug is not the same as an actual physical hug. E-mail cannot take the place of watching my cousins little grandchildren come running to their arms. Facebook can enable me to see photos of new babies, but nothing can take the place of getting a chance to hold these sweet little ones. You can’t possibly watch a video and enjoy it as much as actually watching them take their first steps.

Sometimes reunions evolve into something different than they were and that is what is happening in our family. I have some double cousins, they are considered double cousins because our moms were sisters and our dads were brothers. Brothers married sisters and raised their 10 children in a huge double house. The only one still living is my dad and he moved out of the house last year. My cousins and I have spent our entire adult lives going back to that house for visits, keeping up with one another through our parents and all that has changed.

We have started our own reunion as a means to keep in touch. We held the first one two weeks ago and it was pretty exciting. We met at a park shelter house in Springfield and there were more than 65 people there. There has been a baby-boom in our family and there were 13 little ones under the age of five. It is our hope that this new generation will remember these happy times shared with their cousins.

I started this column with the remark that I take my family for granted. I recently spoke with a man who told me that when he dies, his family line dies. He is the last remaining family member. That really got me thinking just how precious family is. I am so blessed to come from a big family and I want to keep those family ties strong. I hope when I’m gone, that my children and grandchildren will want to continue that tradition.