Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Family

Thanksgiving week in my hometown New Orleans is an interesting mix of old and new attitudes, old and new people, old and new places.

We stayed at my sister's house, which is the house she and I grew up in. She moved back in when we had to move our parents into a nursing facility. She moved out after Hurricane Katrina flooded it and returned after two years of rehabbing. It has the bones of the house Dad built but is now totally reflective of her tastes and lifestyle.

Interesting then and now emotions spring up as I wake up in her guest room, which was my bedroom growing up. I wrote this at her dining table which is in the exact spot where dining tables sat for the whole 50-plus years this house has existed. A pleasant difference: the wall between the dining area and the living room was removed, making way for a more contemporary open floor plan.

I visit New Orleans every year or two, although I should visit more often. Those trips usually include cousin reunions. I lost touch with my cousins for a couple of decades because of my own stubbornness and lack of attention, and I now treasure being in touch with them again. I enjoy sharing stories about our parents and I learn more family lore every time. These gatherings help me connect the dots of my often disconnected life. Six decades of family ties helps make  my life a unified novel rather than a collection of disjointed chapters.

I often wonder, and write about, finding purpose and meaning in life and ask whether this is a boomer obsession or just my obsession. I have no answer to that question, but this thought pattern is part of my search for that answer.

The word family is much bigger than its six letters. Family is blood, friendship, connection. Family can be siblings, cousins, parents, friends, neighbors, workmates, schoolmates, country mates. On some level all 7 billion of us earthlings are related but those closest to us are the ones who count the most.

Most of my cousins are slightly older than me and many of them have experienced health issues during the past few years. Four have died since my reunions began and I'm grateful to have reconnected with them before their passing. As I write this paragraph I realize that one of my favorites was unable to join us this year for health reasons. I'm going to call or email him today. I have this horrible feeling that I might never see him again.

It was interesting to see which cousins have attempted to stay contemporary in their attitudes and which either cling to the past or merely choose to take their time catching up to the present. I don't mean to sound judgmental; there is no right or wrong about things like that. I tend to be ahead of the curve for my age with respect to technology, music and social attitudes, mostly because most of my coworkers are half my age and I have to try and keep up. But some of my cousins surprise me. There were many iPhones at one table, which contrasted with my sister's flip phone. One iPhone user at another cousin party is not on Facebook and does not have email.

Anyway, before I get carried away with minutia and rambling, let me say that one thing I was thankful for during Thanksgiving week is that I get to spend time with family.


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