We just spent much of the last week with my wife's family, down here in NC for a reunion planned by my mother-in-law. It was a huge success and took a lot of work on her part, and on the part of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who pitched in and worked in the kitchen more than anyone else. I was grateful for their help.
As introverts we didn't know how we would manage so many days of intense conversation and (for us) crowd scenes. There were 13 people in all - hardly a big group - but it is always overwhelming to us to have so many voices, so many simultaneous conversations, and mostly, non-stop talking. Due to the Easter worship schedule we were not able to be there more than 3 or 4 hours at a stretch each day, but we left quite spent after each visit. The 40 minute drive felt like an hour and a half these last three times, I have gotten so tired. We truly run our batteries down in social situations, even when we thoroughly enjoy them. We have to recharge in peace and quiet and there has been almost no time for that all week.
That said, I would not have missed this event, or those conversations. Aunts, uncles, cousins - it was fascinating to me that people we don't know that well (we only see most of them briefly every 3 or 4 years) can mean so much to me. I inevitably end up realizing that we don't just love these people because they are kin - we love them because they are lovable. We did not get to pick them, as we get to pick our friends, and what a pleasant surprise to find that we would pick them if we had a free choice.
Then we arrived home and got an answering machine message that I have been expecting, from my mother. My grandfather, my father's father, has been in the hospital the last few days with a respiratory infection, and now pneumonia. I called Mom and was not surprised to hear that Grandpa will probably not last the night - he's 93.
So soon I will be travelling back to NY for another, much larger family reunion. I am so glad my two oldest and I were just up there this summer to visit these grandparents and four sets of aunts and uncles of mine. We got to see them again before they passed beyond communicating. The trip will be to my family home, Poughkeepsie, where my grandfather, my father, and all of my siblings and I were born. There, as here this last week, I will be amazed and warmed by the wonder of family, and realize how blessed I am in the people God chose for me, on both sides.