31 July 2012


Cousins are interesting relations. When you're growing up they are a measuring stick for how your life is faring versus that of others in your extended family. Your parents and their parents were siblings so you sense that the parenting should be the same. Would be nice if you could pick what you like best from the attributes of each. You would think that at a minimum the rules would be similar, as in, "mom, why do we have to go to church today? Aunt Trudy lets her kids skip..."

You feel that you should also in some way be on equal ground with them when it comes to the material things of this world. "Dad, can we get a motorcycle like Uncle Ted?" Somewhere along the way the comparing ends as lives just get too complicated and too different. Deaths, births, college, work, illnesses, family crises affect us all in different ways.

If you're blessed, as my family is, you finally get to the place where you simply enjoy that shared experience of having a same set of grandparents. It is something special to to share, and I do so with thirteen other people. One of these is my cousin Barbara.

Barbara and her daughter, my cousin Becky, came to visit us last week. Barbara was, to her family, what my daughter Rachel was to ours, the first grandchild. Supposedly the chosen one, as they might both think. The one lavished with attention for something they had nothing to do with, landing on earth ahead of the hoard to follow. 

When we were growing up the age difference between us seemed massive, so I have few childhood memories of Barbara. She was the grownup cousin who was so old she hung out with my aunts, and at places only teenagers could understand, with mysterious names like "The Blue Circle". She was in the background as I did things with younger cousins. Now the difference is not so big, as I am catching up on her in age. And it is good that after all these years we have that family bond and a long list of similar experiences to draw us together. She and Becky serve as the best reminder to all of us, that after the parenting is over with, parents and children can be very good friends. They enjoy being together and it shows.

Becky and I have the unique shared experience of once having ordered blistering hot coffee in an outdoor restaurant overlooking DC in the middle of the hottest night of summer. It was an atmosphere so sweltering it could have been the waiting room of hell in some old movie. It was about the stupidest thing to order but it seemed like the thing to do. Because that's what our family does when family gets together. We drink coffee and then we drink some more coffee. This may not seem unique but we really had no control over the situation. It was something our people do.

The funny thing about cousins is that you know tons about each other as it relates to family travails and experiences, but often know little about their real lives. And that's why at this stage in life it is so good to spend time with them. To compare notes on experiences shared and unshared.

I am glad they are both my cousins and I am especially glad that in the year 2012 I enjoy their company more than at any time in the past.

20 July 2012

Monday at Carver's Gap

This is where I spent last Monday, hiking around Carver's Gap, along the Tennessee/NC border. I had a meeting in Knoxville on Tuesday and decided to go a day early and roam some old haunts in Carter County. I flew in to Johnson City on Sunday, spent the night there and spent Monday night at Beech Mountain.

All in, it was a wonderful day. I spent about two hours here, up and down hills, an hour out and back. Some of it I walked and some I ran. Odd to be there by myself, as I'm always here with family. The day included a drive through Roan Mountain State Park, the villages of Roan Mountain, Banner Elk and Beech Mountain. Breakfast in Elizabethton and a drive down Main Street. Lunch at Bob's Dairyland in Roan Mountain, a treat I waited too many years to enjoy.

It was election day in Elizabethton and for an hour or so the tea party was out in full force at the Monument, protesting the latest proposed tax increase. Benny was on the porch, but I didn't stop to chat. I should have.

At Beech I stayed in a non-descript little motel called Archer's Mountain Inn. Nice views, nice rocking chairs on the porch, and good neighbors in the other rooms.

14 July 2012

Walmart-Maplewood Missouri-10:16 pm

Last weekend we spent a day in St. Louis. No Cardinals, just family. Had a wonderful day at the lake house of my daughter-in-law's family and got to know her mom and dad and aunt and uncle a little bit better. It's a strong family and it makes me feel good about the way life is unfolding for my son.

We went to Walmart on Friday night. Nothing special happened. Just the normal stuff of life. At these visits even the mundane seems special, because you're with those you love and don't see often.

So for about 48 hours tiny little things like getting gas, and donuts, and petting dogs, and discussing the health of tomato plants seemed bigger and more full of life than they otherwise would. It's great being around family for holidays, but in some ways being together on the ordinary days is even better.