By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
Recently, we left Liberal and drove to a town at the edge of the mountains. The next morning, we rose early to travel over the Continental Divide and finally arrived at a dusty little town where we checked in its one motel.
Thankfully, the reason for the trip wasn’t a funeral, but to attend my wife’s semi-annual family reunion. Her father was one of thirteen children; only four original siblings remain, but the grands and great-grands make the effort to stay connected and gather when they can.
The cousin who usually heads up the plans had nearly given up on the idea for this year when another ‘branch’ of the family stepped up.
The oldest person who responded to the invitation was 91-year-old Mildred, and the youngest, 4-year-old Clayton. In between were family members of all ages, shapes and sizes who came from as far away as 1,100 miles just to visit with one another.
The event was in a long metal building which housed a trucking company owned by one of the cousins, with a sign for a tavern on the other end.
At first a little leery of the venue, we soon learned the people leasing the bar had quit paying rent months ago, and the place for the time being was closed and alcohol-free. A church service was even held there Sunday morning.
To accommodate all the cooking for the weekend, several of the guys that morning had built a rustic counter and plumbed in a second donated sink.
We arrived to hugs and handshakes, hot coffee, cold lemonade and soft drinks. Several guests brought old yearbooks, albums and notebooks of genealogy information which were set out on a table for sharing. Photos chronicled the passing of years as children grew up, married and returned time and again for get-togethers.
A silent auction was set up in the back room, with items ranging from sentimental to silly, to raise funds which helped defray costs of future reunions.
The existing pool tables inside and horseshoe pits out back provided entertainment for the bunch. Meals were bountiful and memorable, and the sense of peace, acceptance and fellowship was gratifying.
A cool rain during the day and beautiful sunset that evening capped our stay.
Among the family represented were a number of health concerns, including the 4-year-old with severe peanut allergy, a cousin in her 40s undergoing chemo, and an in-law who recently blew off part of his hand while loading cartridges.
One fact we didn’t realize until on the way home was that one relative had recently completed alcohol treatment and was celebrating sobriety – in the bar.
The close of each reunion brings the realization that some of us will not be around next time, and time together becomes more precious.
We arrived home in time Sunday to see my sister who’d made a long trip to spend the weekend with Mom, and a granddaughter who’s staying here to attend college.
Time with family does your heart good.