May 26, 2009
I remember these family gatherings with the Harders, Eitzens, and Roes, with me and Evelyn and cousins Chris and Carl the newest green sprouts on the family tree. We were the ones scrounging in Aunt Ruth's TV room closet, seeking the Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs to spill on the floor and assemble tottering creations. We were the ones chasing each other screaming around the yard. Now our generation has grown into parents; our parents and aunts and uncles have become the grandparents and great aunts & uncles. Most of my grandparents' generation have passed on, back to the mysterious source of creation.
Grandpa Harder reigns as the last living member of his generation in our family. We celebrated his 92nd birthday this Memorial Day weekend, as well as a reunion with a long-lost family member, my father's son, Heinz. Much of the focus was on Heinz and his lovely wife and three beautiful daughters, a branch of the tree that had been a severed limb until this weekend. My grandfather, patient as ever, sat amidst the hullaballoo without complaint. I quietly observed him thinking, Someday, I will be sitting in his place, seeing through his eyes. I may be the last of my generation, sitting with a great grandniece on my knee for the family photo, my body tired and marked by years of living, my mind packed with memories of other times.
I wondered if he felt lonely, surrounded by generations he could not relate to anymore. What was it was like for him as a kid, sitting for a family photo in the 1920s, being the youngest of the bunch? Now he is the only one in our family who remembers a time before computers and space shuttles and instant gratification. He has lived through enormous changes. And now in his 93rd year, he meets a grandson and great granddaughters he hadn't known existed.
Evelyn and I both felt an easy connection with our brother. He is authentic and funny, open-minded and gentle, and has an integrity of spirit that I think all three of us share. I only regret that we hadn't found each other sooner. I wonder what it would have been like to have a big brother when I was growing up. I wonder how our dad might have been different if he had had his son in his life?
Perhaps this is the way it was meant to happen. I am just so thankful that it finally has.
[More reunion pictures here.]