Saturday, May 5, 2012

Planning the Cousin Reunion

My dad (right) and his two surviving siblings, Jerry and Barbara
My paternal grandmother Bessie Allen Gray had 5 children, three of whom are still living.   She raised her family in Neosho in southwest MO and the bulk of the family still live in the surrounding area.  The five siblings produced 13 grandchildren, my first cousins.  We knew each other to varying degrees, all held together by the gentle gravitational pull of our mutual grandmother.  When she passed away in 1994 we lost our reason to gather and so gradually drifted out of the family orbit, busy with our own lives.
  Last year that side of my family had two unexpected and tragic deaths as well as the trauma of the Joplin tornado.  We were reminded in a big way of the reality that life is short, often much shorter than we anticipate, and it left us with an urgency to re-connect before it was too late.  Again.
A few of us had found each other on Facebook prior to the sad events of 2011 but each of us was missing a cousin or two.  Also, we had become parents and grandparents over the years and those generations, sadly, were virtual strangers to us and to each other.  After the last funeral, we cousins began posting back and forth on Facebook, "friending" each other and trying to make sense of all the tragedies that had just hit our family.
One day I realized that what we needed was a Facebook "group".  A place for us to communicate with each other that was more private than posts on each others' walls.  So I created the Bessie's Grandkids group and invited my cousins to join. That group was a turning point.
We began chatting and sharing stories and photos and even recipes.  Soon we began tossing around the idea of a "cousin reunion". And for several months that's where it an idea.  Lucky for us, one of the cousins is a chief petty officer in the Navy and used to bossing organizing people.  He took the initiative and set a date, found a location and told all of us we better show up.  The location he chose was ideal, Roaring River State Park in southwest Missouri, close to the Arkansas state line.  There was a lodge and cabins for us to stay in and his dad, my uncle Jerry, lived nearby.  Although some of the cousins were coming from as far away as Kentucky, Wisconsin and Mississippi, it was still a central location for most of us.

So the plans were made and all we had to do was make our travel plans and wait for April 28.
                                                                                                             be continued.

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