Ben and I took a trip to Madison, Indiana this past weekend to celebrate his grandfather’s 90th birthday. We usually reserve our Madison trips for Thanksgiving; but we couldn’t miss this celebration, despite tax season coming to the point where I usually use my weekends to stay on top things.
I love spending time with Ben’s family. They enjoy hugging, eating, and reminiscing. And it’s a huge group. His grandfather, or Poppa as Ben likes to call him, has four daughters and a son (Ben’s dad). Each of them has at least two kids, with 14 grandchildren all together. Many of those grandchildren have children as well. Poppa’s celebration included over 100 family and friends.
As a person who hasn’t had a grandparent for 13 years and already lost his father, the extensive group fascinates me. I envy their ability to share the memories of Friday night family jam sessions and stories of how Ben grew up. His parents still live in a house that was built by his great grandfather. It’s also fun to literally see how the family genetics, mannerisms, and quirks manifest themselves in each individual member.
They have welcomed me with open arms, despite me being one of the few gay members of the family and the only person of color in our group. (In the beginning, I worried both of those things would be huge barriers in small-town Indiana.) Poppa even made the trek to Chicago to attend our wedding and highlighted the event in his annual newsletter.
I’m trying to keep from writing the cliché that “they don’t have a lot of material wealth but are rich beyond measure.” But it fits in this instance. I feel very lucky to get to call them my family, and I’m grateful for the reminder that spending your time surrounded by people you love is one of the best decisions you can make.