Being Intentional

A couple of weeks ago, we had a “cousin dinner”.  There are 11 of my generation first cousins on my Daddy’s side.  Seven of us live in the Atlanta area.  When any one of the others comes to town, we try really hard to get together.  So Friday, we had 8 of the 11, in one place at the same time.  With 3 of the brothers who fathered us, and a spattering of our kids.  I think I told the restaurant 27.  Pretty much total chaos ensued.  And it was wonderful!

This whole idea started 4 years ago at our Aunt Jenny’s wedding.  Sandi, Tony, Pamela, John, James, Mandy (representing for Mike) and I were all there.  We took a picture and realized we had not had that many of us in one locale in longer than any of us could actually remember.  AND WE ALL LIVE HERE.  I met, for the first time, James & Ginny’s kids (who were all teenagers) and John & Nicki’s kids (mostly teenagers).  WHAT?  We decided then that we HAD to do something – now!  We have a generation of kids growing up not knowing their family.  Not acceptable!  So we have been trying to do something at least once a year since then. Trying.

You see, growing up all my parents’ cousins were also Aunts and Uncles.  It took me a while to figure out the “real” ones from the rest.  🙂 We had family reunions all the time.  Holidays were family.  Not just my immediate, but everybody!  Wash tubs of tea and lemonade, gallons of potato salad, coconut cakes I could never duplicate.  And cousins!  Aunts, uncles, grands, great-grands, great aunts and uncles, first cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed (yeah – I REALLY still have no idea about that.  They’re all just cousins!)

And this next generation doesn’t have that.  MY kids don’t have that.  And that makes me want to cry.   So as Jeff and I stood Friday night talking and laughing and just enjoying the chaos that is the Harris clan (they were smart enough to put us in a back room!), he said “we have to be intentional”.  Mind.blown. That is IT.  WE HAVE TO BE INTENTIONAL.  We have to call each other, Facebook each other, whatever it takes to be in communication.  And then it hit me – WE have to get in on the planning of these reunions now.  The generations before who have handled it all are getting older and we have to take on that mantle.  My Mother, Aunt Judy, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Jane – they are not here to do it or convey the messages to us.  As we’ve had kids, and our kids begin to have kids, we have to take on that mantle.  If we don’t, our kids’ kids will have no greats or “extra” aunts and uncles, or cousins to the nth power.

And family is too important for that.  Just for a moment I’m going to wax philosophical:  I would venture to say that many of the problems in our communities, our country, even our world, can be traced back to this very thing.  Not knowing family; not having the ties to people and places; not feeling the love in the hugs of the Aunt Elsas and Aunt Ednas or fishing with the Uncle Jakes or tree swings at Papas.  Family is fun!  Family is love!  Family is necessary!

So here it is, Harris clan (insert your family names here) – let’s do this!  We’re going to have to plan in advance a little (gasp!) since we do have cousins who live away, but it’s time to be intentional and make gatherings happen.  We need that.  I need that.  Let’s look ahead.  Who’s in town for Christmas?  Too soon?  How about next summer?  I don’t want to lose what we have, and I want our future generations to have it too. I’m serious, and I’m intentional.

Daddy

Daddy

I am a Daddy’s Girl.  I could end this post right there because that says it all.  I loved – and still do – my Mother with all my heart!  She was beautiful and smart and strong and independent and selfless, especially when it came to my sister and me.  But my Daddy.

He’s a man’s man.  He doesn’t hunt and fish and stuff like that.  But he’s tough – more on himself than anyone else.  He wears a cowboy hat and boots EVERY day, except Sunday.  Sunday is a white shirt and dress pants.  Are there sports of any kind on TV?  Then THAT is what’s on in the living room!  If it can be built or fixed, he can do it.  I STILL think to myself “what would Daddy do” if something needs repairing.  Before Jimmy and I bought our house, Daddy gave it a once over.  He spent most of my life in construction, and I wouldn’t DREAM of purchasing a home without him giving his stamp of approval.  My precious husband even asks his opinion and ideas for any projects he undertakes around our house.  (And looks maybe a little proud when Daddy tells him what a good job he’s done.)

And he’s fiercely protective.  Do NOT mess with his girls!  Or the grandkids.  For real.   I think he’d come after you with his bare hands – still.  And my Mother?  Lordy – that man loved her with every ounce of his being.  And protected her – even from us.  On vacation a few years ago, Sandi and I were picking on her, just playing around.  Apparently we got a little too carried away, because the Daddy voice said “Girls, that’s enough”.  And you know what we did?  We SHUT OUR MOUTHS!  Because he is Daddy, and you obey – even if you are 50something!  Jimmy says he was “scary Ira” in high school -and we were just friends then!

He’s a caretaker.  For many years his brothers did not live in the area, and Daddy “checked on” every body.  If Granny (my great grandmother who lived with his father) needed anything, she called Daddy.  He worked in Fayetteville most of my life, so it wasn’t difficult for him to run down to Papa’s house if she needed him.  During the almost 30 years I lived away, his first words in every conversation were “are y’all ok?  Do you need anything?”  When Mother got sick, his life mission became taking care of her.  He learned to cook, and do laundry.  Mother would laugh and tell me “Daddy ran the vacuum today!”  She would also say “let’s go get some coffee – your Daddy is driving me crazy!”  He doted on her – maybe a little too much.  J  I think Uncle Wesley started taking him to lunch once a week as much for her sake as his.

He is the stereotypical Southern Gentleman.  He opens doors, takes out the trash, has “his” recliner and the remote in his control.  He is strong – there to be leaned on.  He’s been my shoulder more times than I could ever count.  When I was 21, my very serious boyfriend and I broke up.  I walked back in the house and just sort of stood in the doorway to the living room where he was laid back in his recliner, reading his paper.  He took one look at me, put the foot rest down, folded his paper and laid it by his chair, took off his glasses and put them aside, and patted his leg.  I went and sat in my Daddy’s lap and cried my eyes out.  Because he’s not just a Father, he’s my Daddy. 

In previous posts I’ve talked about Mother’s illness and moving them in with us.  She used to ask me about the “plan”.  I knew she meant after she was gone, and I did NOT want to go there, so I kept blowing her off, changing the subject, whatever I had to do to get away from that.  Finally one day she got VERY intense when I said “we have a plan,’ and in her Mother voice said “I NEED to know what that is!”  And it hit me – she did.  She needed to know that HE would be taken care of when she was no longer here to do it.  So when we lost her, there was never a thought about where Daddy would be.  He would be with us.  In our home.  With Sandi and Paul two doors down.  Right where he should be.  And I’m so very glad he is.  I’m quite human I readily admit, and there are times when I get frustrated.  I’m watching him get old”er” every day and that’s more difficult than I think I thought it would be.  But he’s my Daddy.  And I’m hanging on every story told at the dinner table or on our front porch.  I’m learning more about him than I ever knew.  And about the Harris bunch.  How he was in school, and what their growing up was really like.  I chuckle when I hear “Get you a lick, Nick!” or “What are you doing?  You KNOW you need to be throwing strikes!”  I get to see his face light up with one of the grandkids calls or walks in the door.

Anyone who has ever known me can tell you I have always adored my parents.  Yes, there was teenage angst, but even then I knew how special they were.  But losing my Mother has changed my perspective and made my family even MORE of a priority, a focus.  He taught me to throw a softball (sort of), tried to teach me golf; he taught me to be honest, to be respectful, to be kind, to put my family before anything.  By loving my Mother as he did he showed me how to love and how I should be loved.  I’m so thankful and beyond blessed to have had him as a Daddy growing up, and have him with us now.