We had a “milestone birthday” in the family in April, and we decided it was a good excuse to get together. Scattered as we are from Denver to Tennessee and Florida to the Midwest, it is no easy task.
Five of the six kids made it, along with Mother.
It was Diana’s birthday, and she’s the oldest.
I’m in the upper middle, and I’m 66, soooo we’ll just leave it at that.
We didn’t necessarily exclude our kids and grandkids, but it just sorta worked out that way, and it was a grand gathering with just us ‘kids’ and our spouses. Has been a long time it seems, but the general consensus was more a shared sense of wonder that we’ve even arrived at the grandparent age, considering that traveling the river of time all these years means hitting some boulders and navigating some rapids.
We congregated at sister Sherri’s farmstead and she and her husband Gerry were congenial hosts, despite the fact that farming does not cease and desist just because a bunch of family shows up. They were calving, with some 60 yet to go, so Sherri and Gerry were in and out from time to time, and my wife Tracy was very excited to ride the four-wheeler with Sherri to attend to the cows.
Among her many talents, Tracy is a doula, with a fair amount of experience in the birthing process, but this was a tad different and she loved the chance to mingle with all those expectant mothers. I’ve been around expectant mothers. And these weighed in at more than a thousand pounds. I figured my time was better spent at the kitchen table with a cuppa coffee. One calf, Cliff, was born with a cleft palate and needed to be bottle-fed, right up Tracy’s alley. Yup, Cliff. That one got a name.
With my four sisters in attendance, there was of course more than enough food for all of us, and any army that might have wandered our way. We all got there on Friday, the day before Diana’s birthday on April 1. Yup, that’s right. And there was some mention of that fact over the years, but April Fools jokes wore thin after that first decade or two.
So that first night we finally left the dinner table around midnight, after several round robins of war stories. Just catching up, remembering faces and places and times, sharing the comedy and drama of our individual family rafts
On Saturday, Tracy & I drove over to Wayne to pick up Mother, and she was ensconced at the head of the table with a cup of coffee, the heart of the beating heart of our family.
Each one of us German kids experienced family differently, that I know.
Yet we also experienced it collectively, and in that collective memory live all the shades of truth and fiction, distance and perspective, tears and laughter.
We talked about our kids and grandkids, about the weather (as it is mandatory in Nebraska to talk about the weather, especially on a farm), and we miiiight have even touched on politics, but mostly we simply embroidered more our own tapestry together.
Tracy & I took Mother back to Wayne that evening, and on our return the partying got serious; Tracy broke out the game “Catch Phrase.” Games are tricky to inject into a family gathering, but my family has always liked to play games that included the whole bunch, and this one did, and it was just one of those times when the stumbles and mumbles and mispronunciations kept the laughter going until somewhere south of 1:30 in the morning….maybe 2.
Sunday late we headed over to Wayne to spend a bit more time with Mother, then we headed on down to DeWitt to overnight with my friend Terry, then to stop by Cortland to see my brother Gary. He wasn’t able to make the family gathering because of a recent shoulder surgery.
He was missed.
There are all kinds of families…mixed, blended, dysfunctional, argumentative, playful, adventuresome, formal. If for nothing else, I have been lucky in life, born into this particular family. When Tracy and I left on Sunday, I left with the family tapestry more complete, with Tracy woven more completely into the picture as it continues to expand and grow, encompassing all of our brokenness, our healing, our grief and our joy.
Each of us sprung from the love of Bob and Lorraine, pressed down, shaken together, filled to overflowing.
…that was my heart on the way home, filled to overflowing.