I come from a really big family...I mean really big. My dad was one of eight and I have twenty something cousins, many of whom have already had two or three children of their own. They are a close knit group and I often wish I didn't live so far away so that I could have a little of that cousin friendship on a regular basis. When I was younger, I didn't give it much thought as I was always off doing my own thing. School, travelling around New England, getting married, raising kids, etc.
My dad was the oldest in the gaggle of children my grandparents raised. He was sometimes the ring leader and sometimes the role model. When I was young and he owned a roofing business, he employed his brothers. We had great Christmas cabin parties and summer beach parties. Our clan would move in and fill a space with love and laughter and joy and more than enough beer and wine to keep that laughter and joy alive. They are a family that plays as hard as they work.
Since I refuse to accept the passage of time, I am guilty of assuming things would be this way forever. No matter how far I moved or how much time passed between visits, I always assumed that when I returned for a visit that the family would remain intact, the way I remember it from my childhood. And then one of my uncles passed away unexpectedly and much too young in his very early 50's. A few years later, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and left us, again way too soon. Not long after that my cousin, whom I was great friends with when I was very young became ill and left behind a wife and two small children. Barely half a year later, his father, another one of my uncles left the world and this week, a second cousin was taken from us.
Thanks to the evolution of social networking I have been able to keep up with my extended family quite well in recent years. I love reading of their joys and excitement, watching their children grow, "meeting" spouses and cultivating relationships that had grown stagnant for a time. This summer, when my brother got married, my boys and my husband finally got to meet many of my aunts, uncles and cousin and I am glad for that.
There are all sorts of memes and quotes about family circulating the internet. Some celebrating family and some not so much. We all laugh and share and click "like" on them but probably don't pay a lot of attention. I know I am guilty of it as much as anyone but I tell you what, my father would have and did give his siblings the shirt or coat off his back on many of an occasion. In his youth, I know he took on many a fight to protect his brothers and sisters and no matter what happened between them over the years, he still loved all of them dearly. My own siblings and I would do just about anything for each other and we have been raised to value family. I have been working hard to pass that on to my own children. When I see how excited they are to see their grandparents, how much they love their aunts and uncles and cousins I feel like we have been successful.
I think I mentioned in the previous post that a friend posed the seven day gratitude challenge to me this week. I took a break yesterday, my heart wasn't feeling all that grateful after hearing about my cousin but today I will be back at it. I am thankful to have been related to a pretty great guy who will be missed by so many people. I am thankful that my father lived by example, teaching us that your family may not be perfect and they may not always be perfect but blood is definitely thicker than water. I am also grateful for a mother who raised us with values and priorities that we could pass on to our children.
Yesterday morning I was standing around with some other parents complaining about how early we had to show up to run the baseball field's concession stand. The dreaded concessions duty is required by every parent of every player of every team, one time during the season. It's not so bad really but who wants to rise and shine at six a.m. on a Saturday after working all week? So we were complaining and moaning and groaning when I received that text message from my sister asking me if I had heard the news. The news that a cousin I had always adored had passed suddenly, leaving his mother and sister and brother devastated. Concessions didn't seem so bad after all. Maybe that should be on my gratitude list- I am grateful for yet another day to complain. Ironically, the last time I saw this favorite cousin it was at my father's memorial service where he hugged and told me how much he had loved my dad. We talked about how short life was...much, much too short for some. I asked him to join our cousin group on line and he adamantly swore to me he would never be on that "Face Page." We laughed and when the time came I bid him farewell.
Today I bid him farewell again although the sadness has abated some from yesterday as it occurred to me this morning that when he enters Heaven he will be in the best of company. I had a dream when my dad died that it was my cousin's father that met Dad and showed him the way...carrying a couple of fishing poles and a cooler. I am fairly certain that the two of them, Dad and his brother, my uncle, met my cousin on his way up and tossed him a line and a tub of worms. What a way to go.