A boomer knows how far she’ll go for family

This is a touching story to which many of us can relate. And if we can, we should count ourselves lucky. Marcia Smalley of Temecula, California, writes for BoomerCafé about the bonds of family, even when years have passed since they last were tested. She asks and answers the question, How far would you go for your family?

Four cities, four flights, three hotels, and nine vehicles in only 72 hours.

Marcia Smalley

Marcia Smalley

I covered some territory last weekend. My family needed me.

And I really mean family, not friends. I often refer to friends as the “family we choose.” But even loving friendships can’t compare to the family bond we’re born into.

My mother was one of nine siblings, two boys and seven girls. All of them are gone now. Most of them had one or two children, although the youngest had six.

Now, suddenly, the husband of one of those offspring from my mother’s siblings, my cousin Jenny’s husband Bob, had died.

Jenny and I grew up together in a long-distance sort of way. Summer afternoons spent in our grandparents’ front porch swing or on their back porch playing paper dolls. Marking time and each other’s changes in seasons rather than in days.

Bob’s passing hit hard. It also hit home.

He died on their 47th wedding anniversary. He’d been a fixture in my family for most of my life.

So I was pulled to travel across the country to say a last goodbye. Eight other cousins and assorted loving spouses felt the same way.

In making the journey, a family erased the years that had long stretched between them but never separated them.

As the hours unfolded, we cousins shared our grief and our memories. We calculated each others’ ages in an effort to get the line-up straight. The questions “Remember when…?” and “Didn’t we always…?” started most sentences.

Marcia Smalley (in white) with her family.

Marcia Smalley (in white) with her family.

Our conversations tumbled over and into one another, peppered with giggly laughter. We joked about red hair, funny looking feet, and relative height (with and without shoes).

None of that surprised me.

What I hadn’t counted on that weekend was who I’d really see and hear.

My grandmother’s face in one cousin, my grandfather’s in another.

A beloved aunt’s smile in a third cousin, my own eyes in a fourth.

My mother’s laughter joined with my aunts’. Their voices blended into a single, spirited tone. Their Southern drawls drew out slowly as summer days turned into evenings.

Late in the day, after funeral services had ended, the cousins crowded around a hallway picture gallery in Jenny’s home. Several black-and-white photos of past generations were displayed, many of which some of us had never seen.

Origins. Lineage. Chronicles of how this had all begun.

Our parents would have hated the reason we were all standing there that day. And they would have loved that we were together.

As I walked off my last flight, that final jetway felt so steep. My lightly packed bag was suddenly very heavy, weighed down by my emotions and the riches of those 72 hours.

I’d have gladly boarded yet another flight if my family had needed me to. Traveled another day.

I’d willingly go the distance. That’s what family does.

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