I have a large extended family mostly in and around Chicago. It’s where my great grandparents made their home after leaving the part of Romania that formerly belonged to Hungary. My grandfather and his brothers were born in the same house but two different countries. It’s been 15 years or more since I’d seen any of them, though on my father mother’s side, I’d seen some cousins more recently than that.
We had a reunion in a Chicago suburb park and about 125 people showed up. I talked to less than a quarter of them. I did get to catch up with a few cousins my age that I hadn’t seen in a long time. As families grow larger and older and spread out it becomes harder and harder for them to stay in contact. I made very little effort to stay in contact and they made little effort in return. It’s not like we don’t like each other. I think it’s just an out-of-sight out-of-mind thing. One of my sisters does a better job at the contact thing than I do.
If I attend another family reunion, I know there will be fewer of the elders left, the familial glue that keeps us together. There were five brothers and four sisters. Only the sisters remain. Of the first generation they too are getting up there and although we are known for our longevity, we’ll lose a few of the older ones too. Of the third generation of which I am the oldest, I got my picture taken with the youngest. His dad is my age. Although I have no children, my paternal family line is well represented.
One of my cousins about 9 years younger than me and someone I hadn’t seen since the last reunion I attended had a stroke last year that has left her blind and with limited mobility. Her speech was not affected or had recovered because we had a good conversation. She can walk with some difficulty. She’s still remarkably lucid and better shape than a friend’s younger sister who also had a stroke. There was much I didn’t know or remember. She had diabetes but had a pancreas and liver transplant a few years ago. I suspect this made her more at risk. I was also told later she had a blood clot on her optic nerve and due to the meds (blood thinners) she has to take for the transplants, the surgeons are reluctant to operate. I know enough about strokes and neurological conditions to be realistic about her prospects, so I didn’t try to pretend things were going to get better any time soon (if at all). She was an only child I could see the toll it has taken on her aging widowed father (though she has many cousins). The one bright spot is her boyfriend is an excellent caretaker.