But our family does not stop there. We are big. We are loud and we like to stick together. Which is why we spend multiple weekends in our summer getting together for family reunions. I have three family reunions on our side (3 out of 4 grandparents' families - that's impressive I think!)
My Pap Jim (my Dad's Dad) was 1 of 21 children. Yes, 21. All the same Mom, not a single multiple. Let that sink in for a second, uterus. Although my Pap passed away 7 years ago this year, we made the trip to the annual Adams Family reunion to stare into the faces of great aunts, uncles, grandkids, and great grandkids that share our blood and bone structure.
Although we don't spend much time with or know intimately many of the Adams side of the family - I was so proud to be there as a representative of my Pap's legacy. I had a lump in my throat to fill out my kids' name tags that read: "Greyson/Gemma: Great grandchild of Jim"
For all the comments we get that Grey 'looks like an Adams,' and for all the times Gemma pushes out her bottom lip just like you did, Pap. And even though they never got to meet you here on Earth - there is so much 'you' still here in them; your great grandkids.
Our other two reunions occasionally fall on the same day, as they did again this year. So we alternate years attending each reunion. Since we couldn't be there for the big day, we spent our Friday evening at my Great Aunt's home eating dinner and catching up with some out of town family in for the weekend. The kids love running around and playing with their cousins (kids, grandkids, and great grandkids of my grandmother's brothers and sisters!) and Grey said, "We have a nice family, huh, Mum?"
Gram, you would love them so bad. It makes me heartsick to think of how they are missing out on your soft, all encompassing hugs and wrist hand-holding. But when I see them laughing and playing with your extended family and asking for when we'll see Kyleigh and Mallory again - I know that you are smiling. Just now, as I'm typing, a butterfly landed on a bush outside the window to my right and I think you of you - just as you requested in your letter to your granddaughters. miss you everyday, Gram.
My 'Lisa's' Gram (my Dad's Dad) was one of 9 - you guessed; same mom, no multiples. She also passed away in 2006 (a few months before my Pap, her husband of +50 years). We stood representative of her legacy at the annual Plunkett reunion this year. By way of the angels - the rain held off and we spent the day enjoying good 'ole fashion fun with our extended family; including a softball game, tug-of-war, sack races, and old school dodgeball.
Out of 9 original kids, only 4 remain here on Earth today. When my Aunt Darlene and cousin Amy arrived at the reunion, Amy walked into the building and called out happily, 'Gram Helen!' as she remembers that this was her day and her place each year. It took only a moment for this story to reach my and my cousin's ears before we all started laughing and crying at the same time. Oh, Gram - how you are missed.
Seven years have passed and I still regularly forget and reach to call you, Gram, to ask you some mundane question about baking or tell you something silly that I know you'd laugh at. It's crazy how it feels like you're still here, Gram - in so many ways. Sometimes it seems impossible that you're not, just impossible.
It is such a beautiful thing that three sides of my family still gets together each year to remember that we all have come from the same tree; that we've been cut from the same cloth. One of my favorite quotes is from my favorite book: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith says,
'If what Granma Rommely said is true, then it must be that no one ever dies, really. Papa is gone, but he's here in many ways. He's here in Neeley who looks just like him and in Mama who knew him so long...Maybe I will have a boy some day who looks like Papa and has all of Papa's good...And that boy will have a boy. And that boy will have a boy. It might be there is no real death.'
In case you need a little more 'extended family love/legacy' beauty for today- see this video: