My extended family got together yesterday, Saturday the 25th of July, for our sixth annual Family Reunion and Picnic. This year we met at a park just a stone’s throw from the Santa Monica Bay, which was a welcome change from the location of our first five get-togethers at a park in Redondo Beach that was situated in a wind tunnel that each year kept us jacketed and wrapped in blankets in the very heart of the summer. Of course, with every positive, some of us have come to expect a negative, a tradeoff of sorts, but yesterday was an exception in that there were none. Being so close to the beach one must always expect that parking will be an issue and indeed it was tight but everyone found a spot.
One of the highlights was that my son, his wife, and their two daughters left Phoenix for Kingman the night before (because of the bridge that washed out on Interstate 10) and then left Kingman early yesterday morning in order to make the Reunion, stayed for the duration, and drove back home late in the afternoon because he was required to open a store this Sunday morning in Phoenix. For my son it is clear that family is quite important to him as well as to the rest of us who attended including my niece Lisa who took it on herself to be the catalyst who made it all come together in the month after my older sister and mother, her grandmother, passed away.
Another highlight of the day was that my nephew Peyton, who had been shot nine times by college police officers this past January, was able to attend and could even walk from where his grandparents parked to our enclave at Barbecue Area 2. It was all I could do to keep from tearing when I saw him arrive without the wheelchair we had expected and looking so much better than the last time I saw him. It’s enough to make one believe in the power of prayer.
This Reunion sent my mind back to the late 1970’s when my career at Xerox, the pursuit of an MBA, and then to the early 1980’s where there was a leverage by out of a division of TRW, and a corporate vice-presidency, all of which had pushed the idea of family completely out of my life – except for every other weekend when I had my daughter and son with me. Fortunately, in the middle of the 1980’s my wife Denise and her friend Becky came into my life and rekindled the spirit of family within me. My wife, whose family is scattered from Colorado and out through the Midwest, could not understand why I did not make the effort to visit with family she considered local as they were mostly within one-hundred miles of where I lived. Well, Denise and Becky pestered me until I made the conscious choice to reach out and back to my roots and my family. Then when Denise and I became a couple I moved from the outskirts of Los Angeles County into an apartment in Hermosa Beach where she joined me within the midst of the family that was to become hers as well.
Yesterday’s Reunion was a very good day for my family after a span of nearly a year of witnessing yet one more tragedy after another. It demonstrated a commitment on those who attended to not only keep the family ties in place but to work to strengthen them. I know that commitment exists in those who could not attend, as for example: my youngest daughter who could not get time off from work, my youngest son who is living in Colorado, my nephew the fireman who was on extended duty, and my niece and grandniece who have been incarcerated since the end of last year.
I have drifted away from family and was pushed back to them. Drifting was easy. Being pushed was not without resistance but the reconnection to family was worth it because, even though one can live without family connections, it’s the connections that make us human.