Monday, September 29

The Very Best Kind of Family

My sisters and our cousin Amber at Delpha's
Taking the gravel cut-across on the way to my Uncle Doug’s memorial service, rocks bounce and skid as I maneuver the hills and valleys of the road, autumn trees crowned with red and orange arching overhead. As a child, I loved that rollercoaster road. Located miles from any town, my radio service bleeds in and out as I travel the road that leads back to a part of my childhood I hold dear. 

Pulling into the driveway behind several vehicles already parked at my Aunt Delpha’s cozy home, I greet those outside and head inside where the smell of coffee and the warmth of the wooded interior belies the blustery wind and clouds scudding across the northern Minnesota sky.

Looking around, I'm surrounded by cousins and second cousins and almost-cousins, the landscape changing yet feeling unchanged. We talk about babies, and health problems, and what jams we’re canning this year. I meet my uncle's daughter, Erin, and feel an instant kinship with a "new" cousin previously fostered only through Facebook and email. 

Heading outside in the late afternoon to remember my uncle’s passing, we introduce ourselves, laughter and tears mingling as the first of the stories emerge. Somberly, we spread his ashes across the ground, the small cloud in the air quickly dissipating as the rest lands, snow-like, on the tall grasses and leaves underfoot. 

When we talk about memories, we remember the good times, mostly. There are mischief-makers in my extended family, and storytellers whose skills far surpass mine. Known for both his checkered past and his fun-loving, adventuresome spirit, we laugh over Uncle Doug's signature teasing nature. Even in his final days when words failed him, his mischievous nature remained, a smirk pulling the corner of his mouth. 

A selfie (his first!) with Uncle Doug, Kendra and I
My Uncle Doug felt a kinship for this land, these people, this gracious and amazing thing called family, too. He wept when he talked about this place. When he called us, he was full of pride for his daughter, slim on other details. Focusing on the good, he skimmed over tougher things easier left unsaid. 

And even though he was absent from this place for many years, he was welcomed home like the proverbial prodigal son. Loved for his endearing qualities, any faults overlooked or forgotten in the happiness of having him returned.

And maybe that's why I love this place, too. There is a comfort and familiarity in being in a place where people remember your childhood antics, how you chased your cousin up a tree and got stuck, how your other cousins fooled you into believing the electric fence was turned off (it wasn't). There's something special about being called the nickname you gave up when you graduated high school more than a decade ago. And there's a sweet comfort in knowing that, no matter how long it's been since your last visit, you're still loved, accepted. 

That's the very best kind of family, and it's one I'm proud to call mine.

Today we're once again linking with up with MADM.

2 comments :

  1. Sweet story. And this nickname, could this be public information? :)

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    1. Ha! It's not exactly a secret. :) If you talk to any of my family members, or anyone from my hometown of Litchfield, they will call me "Krissi." Huh, feels funny to type that out! :)

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