Northwoods Journal: July 15, 2022

Up north where summer is cool (except when it’s 100 degrees F.).

We are having a family reunion in, roughly, two weeks. This time we number around 45 individuals from the east coast, the west coast and in between. They are coming from Alaska, and Florida, from Washington, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina. By plane and by car. The meeting place is Hayward, WI and thankfully that is close to the middle, however it is also over two hours from the nearest airport. Everyone flying in has to shuttle, rent a car, or find someone to give a ride. Travel arrangements are getting wildly complex.

Family reunions are somewhat about food, since we all need to eat. But it’s not that simple. Everyone has favorite meals and food traditions that we like to recreate. Like most families, we love grilling outdoors, pizza, good coffee for breakfast and cinnamon rolls. We love popcorn and ice cream. We love a meal out at an interesting restaurant. We have kids who only eat one food. We have adults on special diets. Food arrangements are getting complex.

We love to sit around and talk, and for some of us that is the most physically active we can be. We have others who would add a silly game, a movie night, or a campfire to their talk environment. There are some of us who have to float the river for four hours or it’s not a real reunion. There are some who have to be on wheels, or boats doing something potentially dangerous. And all of us care about sharing worthwhile, memorable experiences with each other. And although I have never felt that boredom is a fatal condition, I would prefer that no one remember our time together as BORING. It’s getting complex.

The next couple of weeks this reunion is going to be on my mind pretty regularly. My four brothers and I, along with Mom, are the linch pins of the event and are talking, calling each other, and figuring out all these complexities. I appreciate how it draws us together, joining our particular skills, taxing our creativity. It’s work, but good work. It’s going to make some interesting journal entries and I hope I have time to write them.

I love that our complex family cares enough about these periodic reunions to consider planning, spending for them and coming to them. I know it probably will not always be possible. Our families are getting larger and developing groups within groups and that will change the when, the who and the where for our future get-togethers. That is okay, because no matter the size of the gathering, we are teaching the tradition to the next generation. We teach cooperation. We teach sacrifice. We teach commitment. We teach fun. We teach family.

All photos are from past reunions. This one in 2018.

Do you have family reunions? If so, do you look forward to them? Are there special traditions or ways of handling complex arrangements that you can share?

For Mother’s Day

20170512_162317-1Hi Mom,

It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I can’t be with you – seems we’re hardly ever together this time of year. I wish that was not the case. I’ve been thinking ever so hard about what I could do or say to show you how much I love you, care about you, respect you and enjoy you. Nothing I think of quite fits the bill. We should talk sometime about what things make your heart glad so that I won’t be wondering.

I guess we all like to know that we’ve accomplished worthwhile things, helped others, added to the well-being of society… all that sort of thing. Do you wonder what you have done? I ask because I think we all have those alone moments when we are uncertain we’ve mattered in any way (I have them). Even if we think we have done our job, we’re not sure anyone else would second our opinion, ha ha. So I’ve thought of a few things you’ve done for me and will try to express them in a thankful way.

One of the most important things centers around the idea of contentment. There are so many people who are not content and are difficult to be around. They can’t even voice a statement of fact without it sounding like a complaint. You, on the other hand, are able to express even things that trouble you without complaining. I can’t imagine you whining about anything. You’ve shown me it’s possible to be this way and that it is a good choice. I’ve seen that everything doesn’t have to be perfect for me to be content. And because you are content in so many situations, it is a pleasure to be with you. I want to emulate that so that people will want to be with me as well.

From you, I’ve learned that pleasure can be pursued in many small ways – anyone can do it! (Should do it!) The pleasure of coffee in a special cup, a favorite meal (even though it be fast food), a preferred morning ritual, a favorite view of the neighborhood, a pleasurable activity (even though it be thought of as work) – are all the kind of things that should be included to make life happy.

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You’ve shown me that grieving and joy are not mutually exclusive. You’ve accepted loss as a part of life and don’t let it spoil the present or take hope away from the future. That’s huge.

You’ve been a champion of humor, of adventure, of seeing new places and doing things differently. I guess I would call that bravery. Sometimes it is brave to laugh when you could cry. It is brave to go, to join, to do, when you could sit home and do nothing. It is brave to choose “different” when we suddenly find we can no longer do “the same”.

There is much I’ve learned from your gracious way of stepping back from things too. It’s not always about saying “yes”. Sometimes it’s necessary and right to say “no”. I say you do it graciously, because you do not make others feel sorry for you, or make them feel guilty for their own choices. I guess that ties back in with being content and showing it to others.

I am more and more aware that there is no avoiding the process of aging (at least no desirable way) and am so thankful that, in you, I have an example that I want to emulate. You are the leader, you are showing the way, and you are helping me to not be afraid. Thank you.

Other miscellaneous things you’ve taught me:

  • Never stop drinking coffee.
  • Never stop digging in the dirt, gardening in some fashion.
  • It’s just money.
  • Being clean can make things almost like new, use Oxiclean.
  • Never pass up a colorful piece of cloth.
  • Always be reading something.
  • Let people know you like them.
  • Never assume you have it all figured out, or that you even should.

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