In my box of old pictures, I have a photo of my family that does not bring back any memories for me. Iím probably five years old. But all six of my brothers and sisters are gathered around a pole of some sortÖand there in the middle is our mother. Iíve been told by my brother that was a family reunion.
As I grew older, we held some BIG family reunions. With six brothers and sisters, and each of them married and having children, we were quite a group. Usually, at least one of the siblings could not make it and we would leave a hole in the picture for the missing one.
I will never forget the time the women were where they were supposed to be, in the kitchen getting the food ready. The men were in the living room. Suddenly the sound of a gun firing reverberated through the house. All food preparations were forgotten as we ran pell-mell for the next room.
My brother-in-law had been showing his hunting rifles to the kids. One went off. There was a hole in the ceiling. No one was injured. He got rid of his guns and never owned another.
During the years of my first marriage, attending family reunions just werenít necessary.
Then came the lean years, when I did not have the funds to attend them.
When I married again, we had to work out a deal with our families. Alternate summers.
We traveled to Utah with our tent, to camp in the back yard of his cousinís house.
The next summer took us to Colorado to my brotherís house. We had a delightful time sitting in his back yard and viewing the Rocky Mountains.
My niece opened up her home in Idaho for a reunion. It was August and NASCAR was racing at the ďBrickyardĒ for the first time. Some of the reunion took place outside and some inside, cheering for our favorite. My older brother did not want to know ANYTHING about the race. He was recording the race and would watch it in detail later.
One summer our destination was a park in northwestern Kansas, so Uncle Orrin could attend. He was very elderly and couldnít travel. Tape recorders were running as he related stories of the olden days. He died shortly after that visit.
Some tents were flooded in the night when there was a tremendous thunderstorm. I felt semi-safe in the not-so-new little motel we were staying in. The wind blew pretty hard.
Then came the year my husband and I moved to our new house. When the talk began about when and where to have the next reunion for my side of the family, I was pretty adamant. It would be here, in my very first home of my own.
I had never done this before, but charged ahead. We had friends who owned a breakfast and lunch restaurant. They opened on a Friday evening, just for our family. As I looked around those tables, my heart felt like bursting. They catered the food for us the next day, which was served in my very own back yard.
Family came from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and Iowa. My nephew celebrated his 50th birthday, complete with cake and birthday hat.
I donít care much for posed pictures, but there was one I really wanted. In the corner of my back yard, I have a bench under a tree. I begged and pleaded for my two brothers to sit on that bench. Even though the picture was taken, the memory is far more vivid. My two brothers, in my back yard, sitting on my bench. I go to that bench regularly and visit them. Of course they donít know that. (Or do they?)
Since both of my brothers have heart trouble, I was concerned about their health and wondered when (or if) I would see them again. Little did I know that I was seeing my sister-in-law for the last time. We met when she was nine, and I was far closer to her than my sisters. A very strong, stoic person, the last time I saw her she had tears in her eyes. She knew something I didnít. She had cancer. Before the year ended, she was gone.
The reunions donít come so often any more. Life is different these days. The older ones are all gone. I only have two brothers left.
But Iím so glad for the memories.
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