Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

September 11, 2013

A family reunion is good heart medicine

By Keith Kappes - Publisher

Sept. 11, 2013 —     Families are like fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts.

    The person who originated that observation is unknown but my guess is that it came after they attended a family reunion in Kentucky.

    If you’ve never been to a family reunion, you are missing a great slice of Americana.

Jane Howard, biographer of anthropologist Margaret Mead, wrote often about family. She put it this way:

    “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."

    As I reflected on this month’s family reunion, I found myself agreeing with George Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher, who wrote that family is one of nature’s masterpieces.

    And this year’s masterpiece was four hours of great food, new relatives, old relatives, funny stories, sad stories, inspirational moments, warm memories, kisses, handshakes, hugs, old photos, new babies and a divorced cousin with a new beau who drove all the way from Colorado to be with us.

    Our annual gathering on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend is for the descendants of Minnie Ratcliffe, my late grandmother. On occasion, we refer to ourselves as “Minnie’s Mob”.

    Her posterity included eight children, 21 grandchildren, and about 30 great-grandchildren. To be honest, we’ve stopped counting the great-great-grandchildren.

    Minnie, who lived to be 100, taught us to love each other unconditionally and to extend that love to those she described as our “shirt-tail” relatives.

    That category includes those in the family who have been in trouble or have not lived successful lives.

    I’m proud to say that we are following her example today by continuing to embrace those in our family who have gone astray, as well as those who are achieving and making everyone proud.

    We have reunited in 17 of the last 19 years, including 12 in a row before last year.

    This year 56 of us came together from five states to eat too much, to hug and kiss, to laugh and cry, to take photos for the absent, and to tell Minnie stories

    My sister fixed us another great meal and if anyone left hungry, it was their own fault.

    We learned that Cousin Paula was picked as professor of the year at a university with 47,000 students.

    And that Cousin Eddie was pronounced cancer free after two years of surgery and radiation therapy.

    When it ended, we went home, feeling lucky to be part of such a warm, wonderful family.

    Minnie would be so proud.