Last weekend my family gathered for a wedding. The Facebook pictures showed beaming faces, dancing, and some rowdy behavior (Kindra!). I hate that I couldn’t make it, but I love that they gather. I love knowing that cousins who are now three and four generations removed from the original siblings are still connected and connecting. I know my grandpa and his siblings would be proud.
I am the oldest of the third generation of Malones, my cousin Luke is always happy to point out that no matter how old the rest of them get, at least they aren’t as old as me. Our generation of cousins weren’t raised near each other. Our lives have been lived thousands of miles apart. We have never even lived in the same town, rarely in the same state, but we recognize each other. We are family.
Over the weekend as photos of the wedding filled my news feed, I felt the pang of loss, of missing this happy event. I shared my regret with a friend who asked about how we remained so tight with so much time and distance. I thought a lot about the answer. The truth is, my mom and her cousins have made it a priority. They show up for each other. They make time and space for events large and small.
Malone’s have been known to make a ruckus at funerals and weddings. My poor husband didn’t know what to think of his first family wake. We hadn’t been married that long when he was initiated. He hasn’t really recovered. I don’t know if it was the three-day poker game, the amount of alcohol, or the rowdiness that upended him. Now years later, he can be found pitching in as well as joining in the festivities.
It isn’t just the big moments that make up the binds that tie us together. My mom, dad, and sister showed up for family baby showers, weddings, and graduations over many years. They met the cousins at wrestling matches and baseball games. When family comes to town, they stop in for a visit, or meet for a meal. There have been weekends at the coast, celebrations in Las Vegas, visits driving through, and phone calls to reconnect.
And now, the fourth and fifth generations are getting to know each other. Watching my grandson play with my cousins’ kids just melted my heart. These children who will only know Uncle Tiny, Uncle Chub, Uncle Hershel, Aunt Vonnie Gay, and my Grandpa Arnold from the stories, remain connected because we choose to.
When we were all together in February, Kaitlyn was trying to figure out how everyone was related. I was so impressed that Brian had the family tree memorized. He knew how each member of the family connected to the original siblings. Oregon summers had had their desired effect. My kids not only know their grandparents and aunts and uncles, but they also know their larger extended family.
It breaks my heart to miss out on these happy celebrations, to miss the laughter and the fun and the chance to strengthen these ties that hold us together. The older I get, the more precious these relationships become. As I move forward, I am committed to showing up and participating however I can. Kristi is planning a family reunion in the next year or two, there will be more weddings, and I don’t want to miss any of it. This is the good stuff. This family isn’t perfect, but it is precious and I am so grateful to be a part of it.