There are ties we cannot see and similarities we cannot explain until we see our relatives.
I recently attended a family reunion, the first our clan has had in ages.
We used to do that sort of thing more often. I think we just got out of the habit after my grandmother and some of the other relatives died.
In any case, the tradition was rekindled last month, and even though I hadn’t seen some of those birds for a decade or more, it was strangely familiar.
The location was new, but there was a sense of having been down this road before.
We told the same old stories, but some of the younger relatives were hearing them for the first time. We also told a few new stories, and it was pleasant to get to know the newer additions to the family.
I couldn’t help noticing some family members are beginning to look more like their predecessors. I’m not sure that is much of a compliment in either direction.
I noticed too that members of the next generation were taking over roles once handled by others. I was proud of the way the young folks stepped in and carried on those traditions.
As I watched the younger members my family, I was struck by the fact that this is what my parents and their contemporaries must have looked like when they were young and just starting out.
We tend to think of people as being a certain age, but of course no one stays in one place for long. We are all being pushed along the river of life by those who come behind.
Perhaps we think of our parents as being older, but they were young once fresh, uncertain, and full of life just as our grandparents were, and their parents before them.
We may not have known them when they were young, and they may have grown up in different times and circumstances than we did, but attending a family reunion helps one to understand that in many ways, we are like them and they are like us.
One of the new pieces of family trivia I picked up during the reunion concerns my uncles.
Five sets of aunts and uncles had the last of their children at about the same time, all girls. I never thought much about it at the time, but I suppose I assumed my uncles were all about the same age, since they had daughters who were the same age.
I learned during the reunion that there was a 19-year age range among the fathers of those five girls.
That is the kind of tidbit one doesn’t learn unless one spends some time hanging out with family.
E-mail and social media can be good ways to keep in touch, but they are no substitute for sitting down with family members over a cup of coffee or a beaker of some refreshing adult beverage and talking about shared history.
This is especially important for young people.
Spending time with members of our extended family brings us closer to our roots. It helps us understand ourselves by giving us insight into the lives of our relatives.
These informal conversations can help us get to know those who are alive now, and those who are no longer with us.
We looked at a lot of old photos during the reunion, and discussing them together made those faded images come alive.
We all have a basic need to be part of something larger than ourselves, and spending time with our family helps to accomplish that.
It doesn’t take long for us to realize whatever we are going through, our predecessors probably went through similar things.
The more we learn about our families, the more we understand how our family has influenced our own lives, even if we were unaware of these influences at the time.
It is natural for us to want to know where we came from, and who our ancestors were.
Most families include a few odd ducks, and some have more than their share. There may be times when we are not sure we want to be associated with such an eccentric bunch.
At other times, though, we probably feel we are lucky to be part of the group.
If one takes a moment to listen to the good-natured kidding that goes on at a family gathering, one may get a sense that it is special.
We might give each other the business, but at the end of the day, we know whatever happens, our family will still be our family.
We can’t escape our relatives. The bonds that tie us together run too deep.
Our families help to make us who we are, and, when things get rough, and life blows up in our face, it is likely our relatives will be the first ones there to help us pick up the pieces.
Perhaps not everyone is so lucky, but I think most families are like that.
We understand our relatives and they understand us, because of the history we share. The rest of the world may think we are freaks, but our family understands, because they are just as weird as we are. It’s in our genes.
It is true we can’t pick our relatives, but that’s OK. I’m fortunate to have the ones I’ve got, and I wouldn’t trade any of them.
They are strange birds, some of them, but I am used to them. They are comfortable, like an old T-shirt, and I enjoy having them around.