Thursday, November 27, 2014


I pause this Thanksgiving night to think about the sheer blessing of what I experienced today. No, it was not the day you probably expected me to talk about, wrapped in the lively but wonderful chaos that my six little grandkids bring to any celebration. That will happen tomorrow.

Instead, I spent today in the laughing, loving bosom of my extended family--a gathering of some fifty or more of us representing five generations of descendants from my paternal grandparents. In that family, I fall in the chronological middle of fifteen grandchildren, as my dad occupied the middle spot among the seven siblings of a Depression-era farm family eking out an existence alongside Flat Creek in Morgan County, Missouri.

I remember my dad once remarking that my grandma could not envision a world where cars would one day zoom across the country at 70 miles per hour. That makes me wonder if she would ever have imagined our gathering today, realizing the extent of the legacy she and Grandpa would leave in the generations to come.

Though the sheer number of us is impressive, I am much more taken by the fact that, as an extended family, we still gather together regularly, once for a summer reunion and again on Thanksgiving Day. In spite of the geographically mobile society we have become, most of us still show up for at least one of these yearly events if we can. So do many of our kids and grandkids.

We represent states as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Texas, and still we come together. We do this because we are family, and, simply put, we love each other. My cousins and I gather to renew early friendships forged climbing our grandparents' trees and playing in their hayloft. We have kept up with each other all our lives. I know many families who couldn't--or perhaps just didn't--do that, and I am sorry they had to miss this special brand of camaraderie.

Today nine of the fifteen of us, along with one older and three younger generations, shared turkey and the trimmings in a lavish and traditional Thanksgiving feast. When our grandparents passed away some fifty-three or so years ago, we were all children and teens--and one of us was not yet born. But here we are in all our turkey-stuffed, dessert-laden glory, in a rare shot captured by what seemed like a million cell phones all flashing at once:

In another fifty years my own grandkids will be nearing the age I am now. I can only hope for them the blessings that can be theirs only through nurturing the bonds that join an extended family such as mine. It seems that, with each subsequent generation, doing that in our world will prove to be an even greater challenge.

Don't get me wrong--our lives have not been perfect. Among us we have faced broken marriages, strained relationships, and job problems. We have endured the deaths of loved ones and serious illnesses among ourselves.

But through it all we remain a fan club that exists to cheer one another on through this life, and for that, on this Thanksgiving night, I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


The age span between the oldest member of our family and the youngest is eighty-nine years. As a family, our four generations span nearly a century, with birth years ranging from 1924 to 2013.

My mom turns 90 on Saturday, marking the beginning of her tenth decade on this earth. Just a couple weeks ago, little Heero, pretty well the only baby we have left after seven-plus years of rather rapid-fire grandkid production, blew out the single candle on his Old MacDonald cake.

The past two weekends, in a flurry of November pre-Thanksgiving celebrations, various components of our family have hosted two landmark birthday parties, a 90th and a first. Both were loving expressions of our gratitude for these two special family members, the oldest and the youngest, the temporal bookends between which all the rest of us fall.

Below, you see the guests of honor in a photo taken the day after Heero was born:

Of the two, of course, Heero has changed the most:

He is running around everywhere and doing some serious jabbering, much of it consisting of "bah"--which might mean ball or bottle or what a sheep says. Change the vowel sound to oo, and you have a pretty close approximation to cow language. It has been fun to watch what could be our last baby grow a personality and toddle along in the footsteps of his brother and cousins.

With Thanksgiving just a week away, I give thanks for the added blessings of this particular November: the long, healthy life of my mother and the year-ago arrival of this disarmingly charming little boy who came along in his own time, a couple years before the master plan dictated.

A week from tomorrow we will gather once again for Thanksgiving Friday. Framed by our two special bookends, we will once again unwrap the gracious gift of family and, I'm sure, find there many, many more reasons to celebrate.