Family reunions worth the effort

It is always worth it in the end, as we all gather and catch up with each other’s present lives while simultaneously passing down the family folklore to the generations coming after us.

Samuel T. Gladding, professor and chair of the counseling department at Wake Forest University, notes, “If you don’t have some exposure to extended family, you will never truly get to know them. It takes time, effort and expense to be in the same place with them. The dividend is that you get to know them and then you can build a relationship. That’s how people grow.”

It is especially important for seniors to have the opportunity to share their stories with the younger generation. One of the developmental stages of adulthood is engaging in storytelling and reminiscing. As we age, the desire to share our wisdom increases, and what better place and opportunity then when the whole family is gathered around the pool or campfire?

We sadly lost my uncle this year, but my nephews can repeat verbatim his stories of being a tail gunner in World War II and of flying several combat missions, including “D-Day.” Hearing these stories from their great-uncle Jerry will keep him alive in their memories.

More reunion tips

The family reunion is a perfect time to learn about what runs in your family. Health issues such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and many others have genetic propensities, and to know your family history about some of these chronic diseases may give everyone the motivation to alter behaviors and make healthy choices regarding diet, exercise and smoking cessation. You can begin right at the reunion with family games involving physical activity.

Mom’s Rx is to first understand that finding the time and place to please everybody is impossible, so be happy if the majority attends.

Try and rope in several family members who will share the organizing.

Plan ahead to give members ample time to arrange for time off from work and save money to attend. We have ours every other year on the same weekend.

Plan activities that make people laugh together-cousin Joey creates a “Jeopardy!” game complete with lights and buzzers and questions focusing on family trivia.

Get everyone psyched leading up to the reunion. We have a family Facebook page and lots of group emails are circulating this week.

My husband (an outlaw, no less) wrote the official cousin’s club song, in rhyming verse, that includes every family member’s name. He has updated the song for each reunion over the last 27 years. Having an anthem carried over from year to year adds to the ties that bind.

From a story by Lynda Shrager in the Albany Times Union, Albany, New York.