Dad was the eldest of six. A big loud, brusque bunch of four boys and two girls. A close-knit and cohesive family unit growing up with an extraordinary father and mother of their own during the greater part of the 20th Century.
Those six kids went on to have families of their own. I am the eldest child of this next generation. The adored, feted upon, darling first Grandchild of my beloved Grandfather Lou and my darling Grandmother Sylv.
I watched as my family grew to include a large number of gorgeous cousins. Every so often we would gather all together at Grandpa's and later, after he died, "Grandma's Place". Wonderful family get-togethers filled with argument and chatter, laughter and debate, cigar smoke and jocular teasing. The best part was the collectively sung opening grace at the beginning of each meal, our voices all blended into a unique harmony. It always stirred my soul.
When, my grandmother died some 12 years ago it seemed as if we would lose that quality of wider family that had been so incredibly grounding for me, as a child. I assumed we would all go our separate ways, the younger ones would find wives, or husbands, I would never meet. They would have children I would never know.
An Uncle and his wife changed the dynamic. They opened their home to the possibility of re-creating those noisy, wonderful, close clan gatherings of our heritage. We established, by consensus, a post New Year date, the first or second Saturday in January. It became a Clarion Call for the clan to gather. Those who could make it did, those who could not waited another year. A very few have never been able to attend for whatever reason but have always been there in Spirit.
All of us are committed to church, faith, home and family. No matter where we were in the world, the depth of connection and love between all of us transcends petty rivalries and minuscule hurts. My ex partner "Baz" attended yesterday, for to exclude him by virtue of our separation was unthinkable - even by me. Despite our own failures and pain, he is as much a member of my extended family now as he ever was and I will never begrudge him belonging to it.
Nothing is worth the expense of losing people through anger and pride, the goal is always to reconcile the differences toward peaceful agreement. My family is gifted at this and despite all their natural human flaws, the arrogant tendencies, the silly politics, there was and still is, in my family, a resonance and a quest for harmony that was stronger and more substantial than pride and willfulness.
Over the years, I have watched as, gradually, my younger cousins - predominately boys - went on to marry exquisitely beautiful women, and men with the same values, goals and faith, so that they blended into the greater unit like greased cogs in a freely moving flywheel. The family gatherings grew larger.
For ten years, my Uncle and my Aunt have prepared their home, opened their door, organised the catering, and provided the atmosphere that became known as "The Hedt Do".
A new generation of children were born. My little cousins, once removed, are so gorgeous and precious to me. I held the youngest of them in my arms yesterday. I am 46.5 years older than him, but we are connected via the blood that flows through our veins. He is no less my family, than his Father, my first cousin, and his Grandfather, my Uncle. The tree grows.
Most of these early January events have averaged between 30 and 50 people. Loud, noisy, boisterous, filled with cigar smoke, beer, excellent food and much laughter. We are all still connected through our faith, and our willingness to never become so proud, we cannot forgive the ones we are bonded to by blood.
Yesterday, was the final regular Gathering of the Clan. It is time. The family has grown so much and is spread so far and wide now. The organisation for this event was a major burden on my Aunt, in particular. The unit cohered and solidified through her efforts and others.
Now it is time for those tiny cousins, once removed, for whom I am an Ancient Person to learn a different history of their family, through their own parents. They will never fully know the Unit I grew up with, the amazing coherence of familial understanding, love, generosity that I have held in my memories and experiences. But, because their own parents hold it in their experience, maybe they will re-create it down their own family lines. Through this, the power of faith and love within family will keep spreading out into the world beyond the borders of this time and my Father's generation.
We aren't unusual in who we are...we are as anyone else... the difference, I think, was - is - that we shared a bond that went beyond blood. It was called Faith and it was - is - rock solidly entwined with love.
Thank you Pam and Brian for bringing our Clan together for all these years.
Be present at our table, Lord
Be here, and everywhere, adored
These mercies bless and grant that we
May feast in Paradise with Thee