I got a message from my mom this week that shook me. One of my many cousins had passed away in his sleep. He was just a few years older than me. I hadn’t seen him in way too many years, but when I received news of his death, that didn’t matter. Steve was that one relative that everyone was drawn to. He had an amazingly quick wit and was always laughing. He included everyone in the conversation and made those around him feel special. My most vivid memories of him were the times we all spent on Granny’s farm – mostly at family reunions. Those days – oh how do I long for those days again.
We would typically start to gather at the farm on Friday night. Often there would be a bonfire with roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. When Saturday would roll around, more and more family would arrive with food and hugs and hellos. After catching up – the day would really get started. One of my favorite memories of those days was the volleyball games we played in the field between Granny’s house and the old barn. I never tired of those games. We crowded as many as we could on to each side of the “court” and everybody got a turn. Laughing and joking were as prevalent as setting and spiking during those endless games. Near the volleyball game, was the horseshoe game – most often played between the “uncles” – who could be heard jeering and bragging about whose shoe was the closest.
The only thing that would stop us from playing was when the food was ready. Table after table cut through the middle of Granny’s front yard, covered in homemade dishes that seemed to never run out. We would find a spot in the shade of the tree and sit to eat. I remember listening to stories from Granny and all of my aunts and uncles about growing up in a house with 12 kids. What I wouldn’t give to sit and listen to those stories now. As a young kid, I liked hearing them, but truly didn’t understand how special the memories of those times would become. After eating (not that it really ever stopped, as we sort of grazed for the remainder of the day) there would most certainly be music. It seemed everyone had a guitar or banjo and they all came out for our afternoon entertainment. I can still feel that music in my soul. It is who I am – who my family is.
Sitting here typing, I wish I would have spent just ONE more summer day down on Granny’s farm. I wish I would have done a better job of keeping in touch with all of my cousins. I wish more than anything that I could remember every single minute of every single reunion – every taste, every laugh, every song. I am so sad that I did not know Steve as well as an adult as I did when we were kids. Life is so precious – and so fragile. And while I am so very sad for all the time that has gone by, I am more than grateful for the beautiful memories I have.