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Magic family moments

My uncle Richard was laid to rest on Friday. Given his military service, he chose a military funeral. It was brief. Taps was played, the flag was folded and presented to my aunt Suzanne, we drove away.

It’s funny how families turn out. Who knew that my grandparents were the glue holding us all together? We were broken in ways families break when some are alcoholics, but love was abundant. We used to have wonderful family times together, usually at their home on a small lake in southwest Michigan. But after my grandparents died, both in 1987, we all went our separate ways.

I see Uncle Jack every couple years. I was always partial to him; he used to take me fishing as a teenager where he spoke to me as an adult. It devoted me to him. I hadn’t seen Uncle Richard in probably 20 years. He and Suzanne used to come to Indianapolis about once a year for a military memorabilia show. He was a collector and he always rented a booth. I’d go visit. But they stopped, and that was that.

I hadn’t seen Richard and Suzanne’s two children, my cousins, since my grandmother’s funeral. Edward and I spoke briefly but he was busy with his active young son. Patricia hugged me harder than I think I’ve ever been hugged.

Nor had I seen my uncle Dennis since that funeral. His bad behavior that day estranged several of us from him, and frankly I had no desire ever to see him again.

So imagine my surprise when I ended up driving Dennis, Jack, and my mom — the three surviving siblings — from the cemetery to the restaurant where we’d all chosen to gather. Imagine my delight when the three of them sang songs together that they remembered from when days were better. I sang right along when they got to this old novelty tune:

It was a magic moment. It reconnected me to those good days, and healed old wounds.

Still, I expect nothing will change. I’ll see Jack every year or two as always, but everybody else only at the funerals that, given our ages, are bound to come frequently now.

We can’t go back and live the last 32 years differently. We all were who we were, and we all went through what we went through, and it etched the paths of our lives as if predestined.

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17 thoughts on “Magic family moments

  1. David says:

    Beautiful recollection. Thanks.
    You are experiencing a moment in the stages of life that if we are lucky enough to be old enough be there and wise enough to see it.

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  2. These family deaths are becoming sadly normal as we get older. It is good that what began as a somber way to spend your Friday turned into some glimpses of happiness among aging siblings. Old shared family memories are powerful things.

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  3. DougD says:

    I’m just getting to that season. We had extended family we were very close with growing up, some cousins we would try to spend the whole summer with, and they would come for a few days at Christmas.
    After my Grandparents were gone it was getting to the stage where cousins were bringing significant others, and our house was getting overcrowded so my mother told my aunt it was time for their family to start their own Christmas traditions.
    And that was pretty much it, I haven’t spoken to my close cousins in over 10 years, I’ll likely see them at our various parents’ funerals but that’ll be it.
    Nice that you could get a glimpse of the good times.

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    • My wife thinks it’s fairly natural for cousins to drift apart as they age, just because of sheer size of family as they start having kids, and their kids start having kids, etc.

      Of course, my wife is one of eight children so there are a boatload of cousins. I’m one of two; different scale!

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  4. I had a strained relationship with my siblings for years. I have 5 brothers and one sister. A few years ago I started sending them postcards every week. Now when I visit California we actually get together for a meal somewhere and I now get Christmas Cards or phone calls on Christmas Day from most of them.

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    • I had a strained relationship with my one sibling, a brother, until about 15 years ago when we ended up working not only in the same industry, but also at the same company for the same boss. It transformed our relationship and I’m so grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad that you had a good visit with your family. I have similar thoughts of my family – wishing it could have been different, but the last 33 years can’t be just wished away. As I’ve aged, I realize the part I played in that alienation, that doesn’t make it easier. Families do this sometimes, especially when alcohol and depression is rampant in the family.
    BTW, just read your review of the Nikon FA, and U agree, why pay more for the FM. I lived my FE, until the meter died. I still shot it occasionally using Sunny16, just to feel it’s comfortable form again!

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    • Yes, it’s true how addiction and mental health issues can create splits and schisms in families. I think all of us in my family did the best we could — it’s just that our best often wasn’t very good.

      Yes, the FA is for sure the bargain among the FE/FM/FA triplets!

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      • Some in my family didn’t do their best, in that they didn’t seek treatment for depression. Genetics are so important. Realized this again when listening to my mom talk about her relatives from when she was a child – the Irish men either drank every weekend, or abused their wives or both. Oh well, hopefully we will give a better example to out children

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        • I’ve sought treatment for both addiction and depression in my lifetime. I regret that it took me as long as it did to seek it; my life difficulties created such challenges for people I love. My first marriage might have stood a chance had I done it sooner. (Maybe. My first wife had her own serious issues that she, too, refused to deal with.)

          It’s funny, isn’t it, how these challenges get handed down through the generations. It’s so hard to break the cycle. I hope I have, and I hope I was able to not pass this on to my sons.

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  6. Heide says:

    That beautiful moment in the car may not heal decades of old wounds, but it really does sound magical, Jim. I hope that sweet memory — and many other fond ones — will sustain you and your family in the weeks ahead. My heartfelt condolences to you …

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