A person’s own family is, without doubt, the greatest wealth that we will ever possess. Treasure every moment and take time to ensure that the story you create is one that you will be proud of and look back on with a huge smile. ~ Anonymous
Last week I was on vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for a reunion with my dad’s family, the Limoges. Daddy is one of nine children, so just having a partial get together requires quite a bit of strategy. All of his six remaining siblings were able to attend, except one. His sister, Mary, is in poor health and has difficulty traveling. This mainly happens with prostate cancer conditions, but Mary clearly does not have it. But even among the chaos of 36 people, she was missed. I’ve always loved listening to stories of her hilarious misfortunes. They usually have us rolling out of our chairs. We’ve always said,”If it’s gonna happen to anybody, it’ll happen to Mary!”
Grandma Limoges, the matriarch of our family, was also missing. She passed away in 2008, so she’s been gone quite a while now. Nevertheless, we always remember the short, feisty Yankee woman who loved having her grandchildren lay on her plump bosom while we slept on long car rides. She was tough—I guess you’d have to be to raise nine kids—but she could also be gentle and funny. And she loved having 26 kids call her Grandma.
My dad grew up in upstate New York, one mile from the cold St. Lawrence Seaway on the Canadian border. He was the second oldest, and because he was responsible for much of the work done on their dairy farm, had to drop out of school in the ninth grade. Of course, my siblings and I frequently heard stories about walking uphill to school in the snow during winter, both ways. 😉
Because Daddy’s family lives 17 hours away, we only saw them two weeks during the summer, every other year. We have lots of stories of going to New York on family vacations, and of taking Grandma Limoges with us as we trekked to other destinations across the south. One memory stands out among the rest.
When my dad’s youngest sibling, Greg, was a Marine stationed at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, Daddy decided we’d take Grandma to visit him. After spending the day with Uncle Greg, we found a motel to stay the night before we headed out early the next morning. There was a group of Marines staying in the room next to Grandma’s who weren’t thinking about anything but partying the night away. She, however, wanted to get a good night’s rest. The two objectives didn’t mix well.
All night long, the Marines hooted and hollered while they drank and sang and banged on the wall. Grandma asked them to keep it down, but they ignored the stout 5’0” woman.
The next morning after having had barely any sleep at all, I’ll never forget seeing Grandma barreling out of her room headed for the motel room next to hers. Standing in front of the door with her big pocketbook swinging from her arm, she unexpectedly reared back and started kicking their door as hard as her little feet would let her.
She screamed at the top of her lungs, “How do ya like that, huh? Doesn’t feel so good to be woke up when you’ve partied all night, does it?!” She threw in a few more savory words to make her point. I remember looking at my brother in disbelief, our mouths agape.
She finished her tirade and marched off, mumbling incessantly about the lack of respect those guys had. A couple of confused soldiers finally opened the door, but I don’t remember them ever saying a word.
Years later, after I married, Grandma came down again to visit. I remember my mom calling me one Saturday and asking if I wanted to go shopping with them to an outlet an hour and a half away. I’d just started my usual Saturday ritual of cleaning our little trailer and turned Mom down. Back then I was meticulous about making sure I cleaned house from top to bottom every week, whether it needed it or not. How crazy was that? After some thought, though, I came to my senses and called mom back. I almost missed a great day with my mom and Grandma because of my rigid schedule.
When I look back at the relatively few times I spent with Grandma, I can’t believe I prioritized my house cleaning over spending time with her. After all, I’d have many more Saturdays to clean my house, but not many days to spend with Grandma.
Now, when I have the opportunity to spend quality time with my family, I try to give them priority over everything else. God willing, my house will be there to clean, over and over again, just as our little trailer was. But my family may not. Parents and grandparents don’t live forever and kids grow up and move away. The years I’m living in now are the sandwich years because we still have our parents, and our kids still live at home. It can get busy sometimes, but family is always worth the time you spend with them.
I’m glad we took the time to come together for our family reunion. It’s hard to stay connected when we’re so far apart, so every opportunity to see them is a blessing. And Mary, we missed you! Hope to see you next time!
What have you been missing out on because of mistaken priorities? It’s not too late to put down the dust cloth and go out for ice cream!