“Family values are a little like family vacations -— subject to changeable weather and remembered more fondly with the passage of time. Though it rained all week at the beach, it’s often the momentary rainbows that we remember.”
Leslie Dreyfous, New York Times, Oct. 25, 1992
Every year I look forward to Father’s Day weekend for a number of reasons. I get to celebrate my daddy and all that he has done for me, it is just days away from the official beginning of summer which means warm weather and sunshine and it also means that it’s family reunion time.
For the last ten years or so my mother’s family has spent every Father’s Day weekend at the lake. The tradition began when my family moved back to Kentucky as a way for us all to spend quality time with my papaw at his property on Lake Cumberland.
In the past we pitched tents out in the yard, made camp fires to roast marshmallows, grilled out three meals a day, spent a whole day on the lake and the rest of the time was spent sitting in lawn chairs formed into a circle and talking.
A couple of year’s ago my papaw passed away and it shook my whole family. I was so proud, though, of my mom and her siblings for continuing the tradition.
My mom’s oldest sister stepped up a lot and began the planning and cooking and reminding. She starts working months in advance to get things together.
This year, however, things changed a lot. In all honesty, they may have been changing all along and I just hadn’t ever noticed it.
But this year it really broke my heart.
When I reflect on the past few years, it became clear that fewer and fewer people came. Sometimes whole families just opted out of the reunion all together.
Days of putting up tents and blowing up air mattresses turned into arguments about who got what space inside the house on the property.
Days of just sitting together and catching up turned into arguments about the remote because there’s now a television with cable.
Grilling still took place but most people had already decided to leave before we actually got to that part.
We spent some time at the lake but it just didn’t seem sufficient.
As I drove home Sunday night, I realized my family had changed.
My aunt made a comment that stood with me. She said, “If your papaw was still alive there would be none of this.”
She was right. If he were alive he would have forced everyone to get out of the house, spend some quality time together, cook together, laugh together and dance together. All the while he would have been documenting it.
Last year I wrote a column about how much my reunion had impacted me. I remember feeling refreshed when I returned.
This year I feel a little worried. But just a little.
I fully believe that the values my papaw instilled in his children and then passed on to my generation and the next will live on.
He taught us that family was the most important thing. He taught us that holding a grudge was never OK, especially if it’s against your own flesh and blood. He taught us to get away from the world for a weekend and enjoy good ol’ mother nature. He taught us that when a family gathers together, even for just three days, it’s to be cherished.
If I had brought these concerns to my papaw he would have literally sat us all down. I can just hear him say, “Now let me tell you all something…”
He would have reminded us of all the good times and made sure we recognized what a blessing our family is.
He would have been right. In the midst of all the change, arguing and frustration, we managed to have a lot of fun.
I danced so much that my legs still hurt, I got enough sun to actually wear shorts without looking like a ghost, I spent some quality time collecting shells with my little sister and my family fell in love with my boyfriend.
I honestly can’t say I walked away loving anyone any less than I did when I arrived.
I guess the truth about family is that even when things get shaken up, love prevails.
This time next year I probably won’t remember when everyone in the family said my scrambled eggs I slaved over for breakfast looked weird. Most likely I’ll remember that I got a lot of hugs, kissed the chubby cheeks of beautiful babies and missed the ones that weren’t able to make it.
I guess the truth about family is… “Though it rained all week at the beach, it’s often the momentary rainbows that we remember.”