Monday, September 3, 2012

Family Ties

Ties hold things together. They come in various sizes, shapes, colors, and have differing purposes. They hold boats securely to their moorings, decorate the necks of some men, and hold railroad tracks together. Ties keep a mobile home in place thru a storm, hold back curtains at windows, and keep the top of a loaf of bread closed tight. Ties anchor climbers as they scale rocks or mountains and perform many other useful duties.

This summer, we learned that family ties, too, vary. Some are close and colorful; others are more distant and strained. Some are relatively new and involve surprises; some are life-long and predictable. A few of those family ties have lasted thru the proverbial "four score and ten years" while others are brand new, within months of their birth. Some bring back memories of days gone by and others draw us into a dreamed of future. Each of those connections both bind us together and bless us by reminding us who we are and why.

Visits with family members and relatives bound our summer travels together this year. From Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri, to Door County, Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we went relative-hopping! We estimate that we spent time with about twenty of Bruce’s kin and nearly fifty of MarySue’s.

Our Kansas City cousins are slowing down a bit, but their stories about the days of their childhood and early adult lives get more interesting each year. We celebrated a ninetieth birthday with one cousin, and spent an evening visiting with another ninety year old cousin. She recently returned from a trip to Indonesia with Friendship Force and continues to create beautiful quilts. We were amazed when a casual invitation to get together at a local restaurant brought a crowd of thirty nephews, nieces, and their spouses, children and grand-children! There we were able to make the acquaintance of the two newest members of the clan, born in December and January.

Many of our conversations with kinfolk included memories of relatives not present. Parents and grandparents, now gone from this life, were included in stories both new and old, sad and funny. Siblings or cousins kept away from our gatherings by schedule or distance were also included in our sharing. We all rejoiced to learn of new opportunities in education or employment for some of the younger generation. We were reminded of our own mortality as we observed physical and mental changes in some of the older family members.

Several individuals in both families like to dabble in genealogy, so new pieces of family data were shared with great excitement and properly recorded on several family trees. One visit with a second cousin brought us unexpected delight. He directed us to an old, abandoned family cemetery now hidden away in a state forest. It had originally been part of the farm owned and operated by Bruce’s great-great-grandparents in about the 1840s or 50s. We felt the tug of family ties as Bruce’s cousin pointed out the location of their home, their barn and the earthen dam that had helped power their sawmill.

Seasonal changes and the bonds of friendship now lure us southward. But one more family celebration remains on our summer schedule before we head for our winter home. A memorial service will be held by Wright State University Medical School to honor those who donated their bodies to the school for education and research. Those honored will include a sibling whose death we marked last summer. She is the great grandmother of those two new babies we recently welcomed into the family. Family ties hold us close and bless us with love and stability, but even the closest of family ties cannot prevent change.

1 Sept 2012 - mshr