As many of you know, yesterday my family and I went back to my hometown to see my extended family for the holiday. It was wonderful. Several family members that I have not seen in a long time were there and I even got to meet one of the newest members - my cousin's son Landon - for the first time. It was really a fantastic trip.
The thing I am always amazed at is the completely comfortable atmosphere that my grandparents' home has. Everyone just comes in, grabs a seat, and starts catching up. My dad has 10 brothers and 1 sister and nearly all of them have kids (not to mention some of them now having grandkids). Even when the house is fairly "crowded" it doesn't feel that way. There's always room for one more it seems. Extra friends, extended family, and significant others are all welcome. And our family is continuing to grow - we have four weddings coming up in the next 2 years and another one of my cousins is pregnant, due in March.
The hardest part of the whole day was watching my Grandpa. I adore my grandfather. We have been very close for several years and he is in the final stages of Alzheimer's. I have never lost a grandparent in my lifetime and as much as I "try" to prepare myself for the inevitable day, I know I will never truly be ready for it when it does come. My grandpa, however, has lived an incredible life. For a full year, I had breakfast with him every morning at 7 am at his house. He told me tons of stories about family, his hunting trips, being in law enforcement... I really felt like I got to know my grandpa extremely well. There are times when I walk in and he looks at me and I see a tiny glimmer that he sort of recognizes me. But then it fades. I can't really put what I'm feeling into words. A little sad, yes, but mostly grateful that I took the time to really get to know my grandpa before this disease set in. I've lost several extended family members in my lifetime; some I've known extremely well, some I didn't know at all. But this little trip reminded me that spending time with family is precious time indeed. And I'm not taking it for granted these days like I used to.