Sunday, March 30, 2014

Random thoughts on the 6th annual cousins' reunion

My dad died in 2003.  Funerals and weddings draw relatives out of the woodwork.  Having lived in New York State since 1974 and not getting back down South a lot during those years - I was busy raising two very active boys - I didn't see most of my cousins in all those years.

Amazingly, at my dad's funeral, we seemed to pick up right where we left off as kids all those many years ago.  Uncle Harding, my dad's last surviving sibling, was near death several years later in Jacksonville.  I chose to go visit him before he died, rather than go to his funeral.

I realized what I had missed not being closer to my relatives and my mind started churning.  I sent out an e-mail to everyone sometime in 2008.  "Why don't we get together one day this next Spring at the old homestead?"  I had no idea what kind of response I would get.  We all have our own busy lives.  The response was unanimous. . . "let's do it!"

That first reunion brought 11 people, 9 relatives and 2 friends  A few others wanted to come but could not get away for one reason or another.  I don't think I envisioned back in 2009 just how much fun and how successful each new reunion would be.  Some years we have had as many as 20 show up.  We extended it from just one day, to some of us showing up on Thursday to be at the property on Friday to target shoot and just enjoy being on the land that has been in our family since it was deeded from the government "way back there!"  My grandfather was a prosperous cotton farmer and he and Granny raised their four children there.

Most years, Rita and Kip, have invited some of us to end the reunion by going to Kip's parent's vacation home on a wide river about a 45 minute drive from where we hold the reunion.  That is always a lot of fun and Kip's buttermilk biscuits for breakfast are a treat I look forward to each year.  Nobody makes them like Kip!

Yes, it is a long, two day, 1200 mile drive for me to get there each year and another two day drive back, through 8 large cities. . . Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham, and Montgomery.  If you catch any of those at rush hour - and I invariably do - you've got a stressful situation on your hands, like going at a crawl for an hour or more in a sea of cars.  But the pain of that is easily forgotten once I get there and start having a good time.

No, I don't choose to fly, not with the gear that I take with me!

Here are mindless thoughts that go through my mind as I drive down and back!

Tennessee has the very best rest areas of any of the states I go through.  They even say, "Welcome!" when you walk in the door.  Kentucky is a close second.

Driving through central, rural Ohio and into Kentucky is pleasant with the vast farmlands, the old barns of Ohio and the hilly terrain of Kentucky.

Hampton Inn is the very best hotel chain out there and their staff always goes out of their way to be friendly and helpful.

I broke the AAA habit this year.  Long story short, earlier this year, AAA really made me mad about an issue.  I asked for their traditional flip top triptik and was sent the mapquest version.  They seemed annoyed when I brought this to their attention, like it was my fault.  I found that with a map and my iPad, I got along just fine.  I used my iPad to pull up the map of two cities where I wasn't sure which turn to make.  Surprisingly, when I spoke to friends about my issues with AAA, I found that a lot of people are dropping AAA.  My insurance company has road side assistance. . . something I've never needed. . . and now I get a senior citizen's discount for lodging, so who needs AAA?

I am pleased that the next generation, some of our children, make a point to come each year.

And finally, if you have long lost relatives that you haven't seen in a long time, look them up and get together.  Family is important.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cousins' Reunion pictures

This year, I didn't take as many pictures, and many of the ones I did take, didn't turn out good.  But here are a few.

Jeremy loves to fish, even from a tree!

This is Aunt Ileen with her dog, Cody.  Aunt Ileen is 92 this year and still going strong!

After the reunion, some of us spent a few days at a beautiful vacation home on a big lake, thanks to Rita's in-laws.  I took this picture while my coffee was brewing, just before the sun came over the horizon.

As always, the reunion was a lot of fun, and one I look forward to each Spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another great cousins' reunion is history

As my regular readers know, every Spring, I head South for our annual Cousins' Reunion.  This one was a lot of good times, a lot of laughs, and one that left us with memories that will last a lifetime.  Watch for pictures in my next post.

My cousin, Kenny, will always. . . always, get the last laugh.  This time was no exception.  Our day at the "old homestead" is very unstructured.  Some of us gather at the old downed tree where we shoot targets into the stump, some of us fish, others walk the land - it is acres and acres of unimproved land handed down for generations in our family.  So Kenny came back from a walk and held an object in front of me which I overlooked.  "Someone left an abandoned mobile home on our property!" he smiled.

"WHAT?"  I screamed.

"Yeah," he replied, seeming totally unconcerned.

First, I was enraged that someone would use our land for a dumping ground.  Further, I was angry at Kenny for acting like it was no big deal.

"Kenny, are you telling me someone has left a damn trailer on our property and you don't think it is a big deal?"

At this point, he pushed the "object" closer to my face.  But I was too mad to notice what it was.  "That is outrageous.  I am NOT going to stand for that!"  I screamed.

"What is that damn thing in your hand?" I asked.

"This is the abandoned mobile home. . ."  It was an empty turtle shell. . .

Yes, that's Kenny!

After a big day at the reunion, some of us headed over to Rita's in-laws' vacation home on a big lake for a few days.  It is so relaxing to sit on their enormous deck that sits over the water and just watch the world go by.  A pleasant change from my usual fast paced life back home.

This was our sixth year.  We ranged in age from Aunt Ileen, who is 92, and swears this is her last year at the reunion (she says that every year) to the next generation, some of our children came.  We all enjoyed it and look forward to Reunion #7!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Morgan playing in the snow

The March 2014 Blizzard is in full swing right now.  Here is Morgan playing in the snow.  I tried taking a video of her running around the yard, but, of course, as soon as I started the video, she stopped and looked at me!  The wind is howling, snow is flying. . . it's just a big mess out right now.

In a few more months, those bushes will be filled with big green leaves and huge white blossoms, which turn pink as the summer moves into fall.

We've gotten a lot more snow than this picture indicates.  There is the bare spot and where Morgan is standing, the snow isn't very deep.  In other places, just out of range of this picture. . . AND in my driveway! . . . there is a good 10 inches or more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rest in Peace, Molly

Molly passed away yesterday at the age of 12 1/2 years.  She was a good dog and I will miss her tremendously.  The picture above was taken a couple of years back on a walk we took on the Erie Canal.  She brought a lot of joy and love to my life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Old dogs and memories. . .

Earlier this week, one of my blog friends, Brigid, over at Home on the Range, wrote a heart wrenching post the day her beloved Black Lab, Barkley, died.  I knew it was coming.  Barkley had bone cancer.  But there is always that hope.  Maybe he really didn't have bone cancer.  Maybe they could cure him. Maybe. . . The mind can justify anything.

I'm headed down that road right now myself.  Molly, my 12 year old Lab, has cancer of the bladder.  Sometimes I'm in denial.  I will admit it.  The vet could be wrong.  Whoever ran the urine test could be wrong. . . Then there are the signs that I try to ignore.  She spends more time in her cage than usual.  She forgets her house training at times.  Then there are the good signs.  She still gets excited when I give her a raw bone.  She loves to get attention.  I took her for a walk this weekend.  Okay, maybe she didn't go at her old pace, but I know she enjoyed getting out.

My hairdresser told me recently that she had a dog many years ago and when it died, after a long life, she swore she would never get another dog because she could not deal with the death of a dog again.  You know the day you bring home a squirming-into-everything-puppy that someday you will have to say goodbye.

I've done it twice before now and each time it throws your mind and body into a turmoil for weeks or months.  You never forget the feeling.

Molly has been a good dog.  She knows my feelings.  She knows when I've had a bad day.  She knows I will take care of her.  She has more intelligence and sensitivity than a lot of humans I have met.  She has given me years of happy moments.  Kids grow up and leave home and don't need you anymore.  A dog needs you until the day it dies.