Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Family Gatherings: Life Lessons from Those Who Know

I went back to Southeast Iowa last weekend for my families Easter celebration. It was everything you'd want in a family gathering - four generations, sharing stories, catching up, collecting pastel plastic ovaloids filled with candy. As I wandered my uncle's house, I reflected on the things I appreciate about my family. These are things that my family will do as long as there are get-togethers such as these. Here are some highlights:

Bi-Partisan Paternal Pundits

My all-knowing uncles heatedly debating political items that Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh discussed six weeks ago. I walked into the kitchen for a beverage and was greeted by a cacophony of old men, bickering about birth certificates and Libya's oil output. Tempted to join the fray, I opted to go back into the living room and pretend to watch NASCAR.

The Mysteries Inside of a Child's Mind

Small children have no qualms with sliding down hills in their new Easter clothes, nor do they see anything wrong with picking up dog poop in them. My cousin Holly has a big problem with both, especially when the practices are being done by her children. She is generally a soft spoken woman, but when her daughter was discovered with unmentionable material smeared across her palms, she turned into the mother we all remember having.

"Lillie! Get over here! No, Don't touch anything! Put your hands in the air. That is disgusting!"

We were all so proud.

The Devils Tea

Whiskey. Blended Canadian, preferably Black Velvet. Generally mixed with squirt at a 2/1 ratio. Drink until you agree with the uncles' political views, or no longer care.

This is the beverage of choice for my grandfather, uncles, great uncles, and now my cousins and I. It goes down smooth, and makes engaging conversation even more dynamic.


Plates of pure carbohydrates, covered in carbohydrates, with a side of carbohydrates. And for dessert? Aunt Pat's famous carbohydrate-filled brownies. Welcome to diabetic Hell (the most delicious Hell ever dreamed of).

I think I ate close to 200 carbs in the form of cheesy potatoes, rice casserole, homemade bread, and noodle salad. Add in Brownies, pie, cake, and Easter candy? Goodnight.

Busch Light

My uncle John walks in the house with an open can of Busch light. I'm not sure if he was drinking on the way here, but I wouldn't be surprised. While I question his methods, I commend his brazen love of cheap beer.

The Takeaway

This is my Easter message. Visit your family often. The stories they tell and the history they share are invaluable, and should be treasured and appreciated, even if they are tinged with a little more country than you prefer.

My Great Uncle Don was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer a few weeks ago. When I saw him last weekend, he was a hollow shell of what he once was. Struggling to get into the house, he sat down on the couch, out of breath, and proceeded to share with me what he'd been through the last few weeks.

As he recounted doctors visits and hospital tests, he was surprisingly optimistic. He joked and kidded about shots and scans, and was in relatively high spirits. It was then that I realized how important it is to be at family events such as this one. It seems that Uncle Don is going to make it through this episode, but as a man in his early seventies, he had us all worried. And he's not out of the woods quite yet.

So tolerate your family. And open your eyes and your ears. You may actually find some enjoyment in their antics.

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