My dad called to ask me if I'd be going to the family reunion. I could think of so many other things I wanted to do on this Saturday afternoon. But Dad can't drive since he had rotator cuff surgery three weeks ago. Mom can't see and gets a shot in her eye every 6 weeks. I called my sister, Jene, and hoped I could guilt her into going.
It's not that I don't want to strengthen my family ties. It's simply that, to be perfectly honest, the people who go to these types of family reunions are typically old people. I have nothing against old people or sensible, orthotic shoes. I believe in hearing aides and bifocals. I can listen to the old stories over and over again and even recognize how the stories have gotten just a little bit more impossible (starting with walking three miles each way to ten miles, uphill in a snowstorm in July). Jacob has a football game, I have spaghetti sauce to bottle, need to get to Costco, and I really should be around to watch my husband neighbors work themselves into a frenzy over the big football game of the year; The Holy War. BYU vs. University of Utah. It's ugly. It's not a friendly rivalry.
Jene agreed to go. She agreed to drive. If I agreed to go, too. I figured I'd see my cousins who were young like us so it would be some of us young'uns, too. I insisted we stop and get a dirty Coke, though. It's a new thing that I'm obsessed with. It's a Diet Coke with coconut extract. It's the best thing invented since frozen yogurt. I was craving one. Unfortunately, it was an hour and half drive and my parents are slow so we missed the window of opportunity.
My parents directed my sister to the meeting place but we had our doubts. "Are you sure this is the place?" she asked. She stopped at the entrance so they wouldn't have to walk so far. We sat and stared at it. Finally I volunteered to go check it out. I opened the car door and took two steps before I saw my Uncle Joel. He looked surprisingly healthy given that he's in his 70's. Healthy gait of a much younger man but bald on top, white and grey on the sides. I jumped back in.
"This is it. There's Uncle Joel."
"That's not Uncle Joel. That's Brian." My cousin? He's my age. He's only. . . oh. Never mind how old he is. His look is appropriate for a man of his age. We then pushed the parents out of the car and they shuffled into the building.
Jene parked and we walked toward the restaurant. "Jene. Look at me. Do I look as old as I am? Do people see me and want to ask how old my grandchildren are and oh-my-gosh! Why didn't I take that extra Ibuprophen because the arthritis in my left toe is killing me." Jene stopped and stared at me. "There really should have been a breath or some kind of break in the sentence I just uttered, huh?"
We did have a good time. I saw my first cousins that I grew up knowing and playing with and caught up on their lives and children. Yes, they did ask me how many grandchildren I have. I reiterated that my children range from 18 down to age 8. At this point in time, I have absolutely no concept of being a grandparent. I ended up gravitating towards my younger cousins who are in the same stage of life. These are the cousins that can pass for 39 because they ARE 39. They don't even have to lie about it. My slightly older cousins keep rounding my age up to make themselves feel better, I think. They are over 50. Aren't I about that? Umm, no.
I realize I'm fighting a losing battle. No matter how hard I argue, the point will be moot in time. I will be 50 someday. I will have grandchildren and I will be proud of them. I will shuffle as I walk. I will color my hair to not highlight blonde but to cover the gray. I will laugh and share stories about times that didn't really happen or might be slightly exaggerated but I'll know that the younger generation can't argue the truth because they weren't there. It's a concession we give to the older generation. And it will be awarded to me someday. Sooner than I think, probably. But I will go kicking and screaming.
Unless my arthritic left toe is acting up. Then I'll pull the eccentric old lady card and insist we stop for a Dirty Coke.