Family Reunions

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

There are times when I think I am really on target with the importance of families…then someone hands me the request to write a blog on “family reunions.” Hum…not really feeling on target anymore. Do you ever feel this way? The word, “reunion” can stir up a wide range of feelings, good, and bad, confusing, exhilarating and everything in between.

Now my dad, who is now 98, makes going to his family reunion one of his highest priorities. He makes sure he is driven across 3 states to attend his yearly family reunion. I try to put myself in his situation, to attempt to understand why this is such a priority to him. I understand he wants to spend even a short time with his only remaining sibling. I know he enjoys seeing the nearly 100 relatives who attend. I often hear him ask about the members who aren’t in attendance…almost like saying he misses their presence. He gets a big kick out of having the largest group in attendance from his lineage. He is obviously a proud member of this larger clan.

Do reunions make you happier, healthier? Probably…research shows that connecting with others is important in terms of having people feel happier and healthier. Connecting with a large group helps in a variety of ways… perhaps with getting a new job, place to stay, or just needing to know more about whatever! More minds know more. (Well, that’s true in most families!)

Family reunions may be the only place multiple generations meet, besides funerals or weddings. Generally they’re held at pleasant places, which tend to make for happy times (unlike funerals.) Family reunions can also be a place to heal old wounds. They can be a place to learn about one’s heritage, or medical genetic information. Reunions can be a place to share “brag stories” about our families. (I think all reunions should offer a “show and tell” table, where each family can place photos, old and new, or other memorabilia to view.) It can be a place to share e-mail addresses, making communication easier and hence making closer relationships. Closer relationships (or friendships) are the true blessings of families. With more and more families adopting, it can also be a great way for new members to meet and bond.

Think of the great lengths people who do not know their ancestry take in order to know their relatives. It’s just cool to know your history, as well as the history being made right now. You can think of each member being a story, plus taking time to share “your” story…who you are and what makes you interesting. Make time to attend yours, and take your kids. Do the same for your spouse/significant other, and they’ll be more likely to return the favor. Guess there are lots of good reasons to go to one’s family reunion. Go ahead and make it a priority…bet you’ll be glad you did!

Carol Cochard Pool, MSW

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