We had a little family reunion this past Labor Day weekend. It was our first ever family reunion for those of us related through my father’s side of the family. It took us almost an entire lifetime to make this happen, but I think it went exceedingly well, and I hope it will not be our last.
My father had two brothers. All three of them are now deceased. They were not close for a variety of reasons, but in their later years, my father, who was the oldest, started visiting his youngest brother. So, they developed a relationship – of sorts.
A consequence of their lack of closeness was that we, the cousins, did not get the opportunity to know each other. We knew that each other existed, but that was about it. Other than a very few times when we were little kids, the only time we came together was for funerals.
When my grandmother passed away in 1984, some of us were connected. By that time, we were in our 20s and younger. By the time my father’s youngest brother passed away in 2003 and my father passed away in 2008, we were all in our 40s and a little younger. It’s now 2011, and we are all in our 50s and a little younger and most of us have grown and nearly grown children of our own.
When we got together for funerals, we had a good time, but getting together for funerals isn’t the ideal way to really get to know each other and each other’s families. So, for a few years after our fathers’ died, we would see each other sporadically and visit if we were in each other’s cities. We talked about getting together as a group. It took us a few years to do it – life gets in the way sometimes – but about half of us in the families of my father and his youngest brother managed to get together over Labor Day weekend for a mini family reunion at a resort in Lake of the Ozarks.
We had 25 people which included 3 younger kids, 11 20-somethings (ages ranged from 19 to 31), and 11 “older” adults, i.e. the parents. We had 4 college students who all made it in from 4 different universities in 2 different states. We had people arriving late and leaving early, but we all had a chance to connect in a recreational environment as opposed to the more somber settings surrounding funerals.
The entire family of first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins, spouses and significant others get together for a family photo (okay, there was one person missing).
There was boating and tubing on The Lake, there was fishing, there was swimming, there was golf, there was shopping, and there was a lot of food and fun with a little bit of partying mixed in there for the younger set.
We shared meals and details about our families and what we all did for a living. We shared stories, good and bad, of our childhoods and what we knew about our shared grandparents. Our families have been impacted by life’s challenges – deaths, divorce, cancer, estrangements – but we all are well functioning families. Normal families that love our spouses and children and our extended families in spite of life’s lessons along the way.
My cousin, Tina, said, “I feel so cheated not to have grown up knowing them. So glad we are getting this chance.” I think she speaks for all of us.