When I was young, my family seemed to be always getting together for family weddings. I have a very large, Irish, Roman Catholic family so that means I have many cousins. It was great to have an excuse to get in the car and run to St. Louis for the whole day. That was how I got to really get to know my family on my dad’s side. You see, my dad is one of eight siblings. He had 5 sisters and 2 brothers. If you recall from previous blogs, he is from a small country village in the west of Ireland. Dad and 4 sisters immigrated to St. Louis area within several years time. 3 stayed in St. Louis, Dad moved to Illinois and one sister ended up moving to New York. All of them wanted to make a new life in a new world. And so they did.
With the exception of my aunt in New York, the rest of us would get together several times a year growing up. A few times a cousin would come stay a week with us, someone would get married, a holiday gathering at one of my aunts would occur. And the food! My aunts never let you leave hungry. We had the small household of only 2 kids. In all, I grew up with 19 first cousins on my mom’s side and 18 on my dad’s side, but I knew my dad’s side better due to proximity. The age difference is vast though. Some of my second cousins are very near my age but my New York cousins are my age and my cousins in Ireland are too. That is the beauty of a large family! Confused yet? Well don’t be. The point is this, having a big family is amazing! It only solidified me wanting to have a large family when I grew up. There is always something happening and someone to go to if you need it.
Now that I’m in the middle years, however, life has changed. I have my own big family, but we don’t get together so much anymore with my extended family. Lately we seem to get together only for funerals and then it’s still not all of us. That makes me sad. When I was a kid, if one of the family passed away, the whole family was there. That’s just how it was. Now, everyone has to work. Has productivity become such a necessary evil that if numbers aren’t crunched people aren’t doing their jobs and can’t get the day off for a beloved aunt, uncle or cousin? I find that pathetic. It means that spouses can’t go to funerals unless it’s at a convenient time. Regardless why don’t we make excuses to get together more often to see each other while we are still living?
Today, I trekked to St. Louis to bury my beloved Uncle Mike. He was the last of the spouses of my dad’s siblings to be laid to rest. He was 90 years old and the sweetest man you would ever meet. He was a saint here on earth with a great sense of humor, a devilish gleam in his eye and the kindest, most patient man on the planet, besides my dad. He and my Aunt Nancy raised 4 boys, each of whom I adore. I was so blessed and honored to have an uncle like my Uncle Mike and I know that my mom will be welcoming him through the pearly gates of heaven with her arms wide open and a huge smile on her face. Uncle Mike, I know you are looking down on your family now and you know just how much you were and always will be loved. And just for you, it was a great party!