August 4, 2006

I am spoiled, Part II

Buch of characters, this group. I spend most of my weekend visit alternately eating and laughing my ass off. The danger, of course, is in the combination, but we haven't lost anyone. Yet.

My favorites are probably my grandmother's sisters. My grandmother is the oldest of six; there are two boys and three girls below her. And they're all just overgrown children. Well, the whole family is, really, but especially these kids. I remember a couple of years ago, standing and listening to two of my great-aunts all a-giggle, threatening each other with sneaking into the other's room and pulling the sleeping-hand-in-a-pan-of-warm-water trick. Bear in mind, these are women in their late 60s or early 70s, grandparents or more each, talking about grade-school summer camp pranks. These are my people. And it by no means starts or ends with them: everyone's an enabler (or more to the point, instigator) here. My dad and his siblings/cousins are like that, as are mine. It's hard to pick out the most fun moments, but a lot of them have to do with listening to the older folks tell stories about when they were young. Every time, you get another story you haven't heard, and every time you wonder how on earth you'd never heard that before, or you learn something that it had never occurred to you to ask. Plus, watching them all howl with laughter as they talk about the kinds of shenanigans they were into 60+ years ago is just a treat.

What's remarkable to me is that so many of them are still around; I frequently refer to my family as indestructible. There is some serious longevity in my gene pool: the patriarch of the family is my great-great-uncle Mote (my grandmother's uncle). At 95, he is just now starting to slow down. It was only in the past few years that they made him stop driving (my brother rode with him once on the way to play golf; I think once was plenty for him). Mote was a pilot, flew the Hump, and even though he's visibly slower now he still has quite a presence. My grandfather is 93, and I swear he's in better shape than I am (all right, so maybe that says more about me than about him). He and my grandmother (age 86) walk a couple miles every day in FL, and they bowl and garden and do things that people 10 or 20 years their junior have trouble doing. The past couple of gatherings have been especially neat, since we now have the fifth generation being born. The cousins my age are now marrying and starting families, and the new round of babies is, not suprisingly, a big hit. The pictures of five generations all together (my great-great-uncle, grandmother, aunt, cousin and her 6-month-old) really are priceless.

The defining thing is really just how much everyone truly enjoys spending time together. I could tell a million stories as examples, but it's hard to put into words the sensation of being there, in the middle of it all. You really can't help but smile. I have always felt more than a little blessed to be in this family, considering some of the stories I've heard about others: one side of the family doesn't speak to the other, divorces, various kinds of drama and conflict. We've been largely drama-free; not completely, but I'd say we've had well below the average. My parents have been married for around 35 years, my grandparents for a little over 60 years now. And every get-together is just one long love-fest. Every couple of summers, it's just a little bit bigger.

So yeah, I'm spoiled, but in the best possible way...


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