Last week Beth and I went north for a family reunion in the small western Pennsylvania town of Beaver Falls. This is near the home of my father, Samuel Smith Ward, age 98. Part of this event was to see him, take pictures, and sing together at the home of my brother Paul who is Daddy's primary caregiver.
I am still relaxing in the afterglow of this blessed time. As we converged on the student apartments at Geneva College where the reunion was held, household by household, we awkwardly greeted those to whom I am related. The unique blend of familiarity and strangeness is universal, I think, as siblings, in-laws, cousins, grandchildren, and other related persons chat and move into funky digs. But when we finally began to grow to a significant number and met for supper in the commons, there was a happy tone to this meeting as folks ate and caught up on our lives.
Samuel and Rosalie Ward were married in 1937. My mother went on to glory in 1997, and that is the last time we gathered. My oldest brother is 69 and he and his wife came from Edmonton, AB. Some of the family were unable to attend, but the ones who did were entertained in some new ways.
1. The siblings are old enough now to be thinking about their own physical and economic life span. Some of our conversations were about health issues.
2. The children of the siblings ran the event. My son Kirk and his cousin Sam led our worship service on Sunday, and my nephew Matt Vos gave the message.
3. Since all the siblings are musical, there was spontaneous singing and playing guitars, ukeleles, keyboard, and even bass. This time, though, more of the music came from other sources than my father's old camp songs. We ended up doing some standard jazz and folk songs. Joel Ward even attempted Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady" accompanied by cousin Marcus. During the talent show, my son Kirk sang a parody called "I Still Haven't Found how to be a Ward" based on the familiar U2 hit. It was dedicated to all the patient In-laws!
4. Our grandchildren were dominant! They played games, bounced off the walls, got hurt, and all the stuff we love about kids.
Although it is not unusual for our gatherings, there was little or no structure to the reunion. A couple of things were planned like dinners, worship, and a talent show, but mostly we just flowed. On Saturday morning a walk to a local playground became a combination of kids playing and adults talking and laughing together in sociological serendipidy. (Right, Matt?)
Everybody's talking about the next one, and those of us who live down south are feeling the call to host it. Next time we will have more convenient tables to sit at, and a shift system for meals so we can interact with more people. I also think that some more active opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming, and a game room would be great.
We are back home, but I am living in a new sense of warm contentment. I am loved, I am part of a wonderful group of growing generations, and I am glad.