My Grandpa’s 90th birthday was this March. My mom and her sister, along with some help from their brother, planned a 90th birthday party for him. All the original 13 cousins were invited back to celebrate. When I say original 13, I mean no spouses and no kids. I know it seems strange, right? I am sure he would have loved to see them, too – especially the great-grandkids. But the thing is, it was pretty special to just have time – adult time – with my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and my grandpa. It takes you back to when I was little and the family gatherings were so amazing. (Don’t get me wrong, the kids are awesome and the spouses, too; we did that for his 85th – and I loved it!) Grandpa is 90 though, and the liveliness of 27 great-grandkids (I think I counted right) and 13 spouses may have been too much for it to really be enjoyable. As it was, I think we claimed the prize for the loudest adults in one house. It was great!
But let me back up a little…. Since it was the “originals” that meant that my brothers and I carpooled together. We left early (4am) on Friday morning, so we could arrive by 4pm in Kansas City – just like the good ole days. Kristin (my cousin) agreed to host everyone at her house. So, we were able to see her family (minus her husband who was out of town on business, and greatly missed); Mark and Jennie and their new little guy, Ethan; and Jenny, who trekked there from Utah. We shared sloppy joes, pasta salad, and some angel food cake in celebration of Nate’s birthday that was that day! We woke up early – again – 5am to head to Oklahoma and arrive by 12pm for lunch. We made it despite a few questionable decisions made by the drivers of our caravan. We greeted Grandpa who had been standing, waiting for us to arrive since we had called about 15 minutes out. He was so excited.
We said hello to him, to Sherry and Bruce, my parents, Randy, and Gary and Darlene. Mandy and Sarah arrived shortly after, as did Jess and Jodi. And then, everyone was there… almost. Jason had to work this day, so he only made it on Sunday. We had a perfect meal of deli meat sandwiches, relishes, chips, and cookies/rice krispie treats. The tables were filled with talking and laughing and eating.
After the meal, we converged in the formal dining room. Grandpa was put on the hot seat while being interviewed by my mom. She asked him how he met grandma, what his favorite things to do with his brothers and sisters were, and a little about the family history (how we immigrated over here). He shared stories I had never heard before, and my only regret is that we didn’t record his answers. He also told his low points in his life, and when Mandy asked, he shared his high points as well. It was so amazing to hear about life 90 years ago and realize what all he has seen, heard, and experienced over that span of time.
At some point before supper (or maybe it was after?), we took pictures. Here is one of the grandkids oldest to youngest (just like in the old days… but we don’t really fit in front of the hearth anymore).
And another one of us in height order (I am sure Mark, the tallest, and Mandy, the shortest, love their designated posts)
And a normal one with Grandpa. (Sorry, Mark, but everyone else looked good in this one…)
Here is Grandpa with my aunts and uncles. (Same goes to you, Bruce. Like father, like son!)
And my family with him.
After this, some people went out to the farm to see the new equipment in the barn, and others stayed to look at old photo albums and reminisce. We gathered again at supper time for fried chicken, party potatoes, baked beans, and pies. (If lunch was “’light,” this was the opposite!) The conversation, the memories, the catching up, and the bonding continued. Many of the men gravitated toward the family room to watch March Madness. The women huddled around the small table sharing stories of childbirth, peeing your pants, and the antics of kids. I don’t think that I have laughed that hard – to the point of my stomach hurting – in a long time. It was magical and perfect.
The next day, we journeyed across the field to church with Grandpa. I think we doubled the size of the congregation :) We shared in communion as a family and shared in worship to our Lord. After the service, we fellowshipped around the table one last time – funeral burgers, chips, fruit, and birthday cake with ice cream. This time spouses and kids of the “locals” came and joined the party. It was good. You could tell Grandpa was wearing out, but also that he was just soaking it in. I hope this time keeps his spirits high and adds to the memories as one of his high points in life.
We said our good-byes, and my family (just the six of us) carpooled back to Ohio. We were able to stop in Joplin, Missouri, to see where Nate had taken the youth for rebuilding after the tornado. The damage to that town is still evident; what a reminder of the power of nature! We ate at Braum’s (if you ever pass one, stop; it is well worth your money and time). We stayed at a hotel after driving about 6-7 hours that day. We left the next morning around 8:00 and arrived home around 7pm.
The time in the car with my siblings was valuable. When was the last time you were able to talk with your family without the interruption (the good ones and the bad ones) of children? If you haven’t done it for awhile, you have probably forgotten how good it is. I am thankful that riding in the car with my brothers is something I look forward to, not dread. They are blessings in my life, and ones I don’t take for granted. This trip was as good for Grandpa as it was for me. So, Grandpa, I am looking forward to your 95th party – it should be a blast!