Growing up in a huge extended family certainly had it’s moments. There were the huge holidays and big reunions, funny stories of our happy childhoods, and having 267 people have a deeply personal opinion about so many of the things you do every day (it turns out that aunts and cousins can have quite a bit of tough love and get away with it more than regular people). I have an older brother, but we were raised with a pack of cousins nearby. So many of my happy childhood memories include time with aunts and uncles, and wild cousins, and of course, delicious food (calories don’t count at family get togethers). Traits I come by honestly on both sides is unfailing loyalty, humor in every situation and work ethic. My dad retired to Batesville a few years ago, but I cannot seem to get him to stay retired. He’s a busy bee.
Recently, I had the sad occasion to go back to my mom’s hometown, Mulberry, for a funeral for a beloved uncle, my mom’s brother, Jess. He was always larger than life to me as a kid, with his cowboy hats and belt buckles won at rodeos, fiercely loyal to our large family. My mom is the youngest of 12 siblings, so I think he may have been larger than life to her too. I love to hear tell stories about their country raising (my dad has some stories too!!) and about their happy life. I keep telling my mom that I want to write a book about their family, but there would be so much to include (and everyone would disagree on the details, since they also argue about silly things).
I am kind of unwilling to admit that a chapter of my life has closed, the one where my cousins and I are the kids, and our parents are the ones taking care of us. Sadly, the tide has turned. So many of my cousins are taking care of their aging parents. I joke often that my parents and I have had a total role reversal. They run around without a care in the world (retirement looks pretty good!). If there is a predicted thunderstorm or sleet, rest assured they are probably on the road somewhere, scaring me to death (and don’t even think about getting them to answer their phones, which are more than likely on silent). I am paying for someone else’s raising with these wild two, obviously not mine, right? Since I was always in right before curfew (turning in on two wheels on the dot) and they never wondered where I was.
I would say that I am prepared to care for my parents as they age (if they would just sit still already), but they have both had a couple of health scares in the last year, and shown me just how bullheaded they can be, with taking care of themselves. We all have so much to learn from our parents, our aunts and uncles, and our grandparents. I realize that sometimes family relationships are just hard. So many harbor the most pain from the things their family has done or said to them, in which case, there’s still quite a bit to learn from them, about how not to treat people.
My parents have a keen interest in not living in a granny pod in my backyard, although I assured them, I will build them quite a swanky one. Attached is a photo of them in front of the church where they wed, Main Street Missionary Baptist Church in Mulberry, almost 50 years ago (in October!!). Hug your parents if you’ve still got them (and tell them to turn their ringtone back on on their phone 🙄).