Mention the word and immediately family memories swirl in your head. Hot Summer days filled with softball, volleyball, and corn-hole (which is the funniest name for any game I've ever heard of). Days of soda, and pretzels, and beer.
It's really not much of a union at first: everyone gathers in their own little clan at picnic tables, awkwardly talking with others as they pass by to laden the food table. An occasional joke is made which gets a laugh or two from nervous apprehension, and there's always the one or two who pay no attention to the protocol and try to greet everyone they can corner with no means of escape.
Really nothing happens until the beer starts flowing; then slowly, like cautious dogs approaching something new, the mingling begins. The day wanes and people start games of softball, volleyball, and corn-hole until everyone is tipsy enough to make fun of others' game skills and some people eventually leave angry, while others leave not knowing why some people are angry.
That's how it happens with my family anyway.
Other reunions are smaller, more intimate. They involve only immediate family. And in these we find the definition of "family" scatters its meaning and breaks the traditional mold.
My partner and I have a family. Our kids are an old Beagle and a young Basset Hound. Like most families we've had our share of loss. The first to wait for us at that ethereal bridge was our Molley, then our Pete left, then finally Willoughby. Two Bassets and a Beagle. We had them cremated and they are with us to this day.
Some people don't get that chance.
Their family is ripped away through Life's spite, and when someone one loves is taken without reason, ones heart bleeds from the wound. But the heart heals, my friend. The heart heals.
My niece, Alisha was shot 5 times by her estranged husband who then killed himself.
She is now a quadriplegic whose two hounds, Howie and Dexter live with her shooter's parents.
On Friday April 18th, Alisha got a surprise visit. Her husband's parent's brought Howie and Dexter for a visit. She could not contain what happiness blossomed in her heart and the healing began.
So remember, when Life spite's you, the heavens surprise you. It may not happen today or tomorrow, but when it does it will be healing and radiant.