Having just lived through the planning, schlepping and celebrating of my dad's surprise 90th birthday party, I have been musing about family. That is always a rather frustrating muse. I am very lucky in that my parents are a) still together after 60-something years; b) relatively healthy for their advanced ages; and c) still living pretty much on their own. Because I live the closest, I am the 'overseer' of their affairs. I also am the one to tote them to non-local doctor appointments, the chauffeur for visiting relatives (very important to them as the years stack up), and I check on them every weekend. I love my parents. They are funny and dear, and (mostly) a joy to spend time with. My friends love them and the feeling is mutual - as witnessed at my dad's party. For a while there, we thought it might have been TOO much of a surprise, but he rallied.
After spending any time with my sisters, I always muse about what it would be like if we all got to choose our own siblings. Would you choose the self-same sisters? Brothers? Trade up? Try another ethnicity? Get older/younger siblings? Mix it up? I know a young woman who was raised in a fairly unconventional family. When each new baby was born, the older siblings got to choose the name. I can tell you there are some 'unusual' names in that family. When she had children of her own, I believe they followed suit - for the first. Whose name is Birch (names changed to protect the innocent). Let's just say it is a type of tree. I think that it would be fun to be able to choose your own name. I would never leave that in the hands of my sisters. Heaven only knows who I'd be today - Howdy Dotty? Hopalong Cassie? Bugs Bunny?
We have a very small family. And a scattered family. Once upon a time in Ohio, I was very close to my Great Aunt Edie and her brother, Great Uncle Ben. They were two of the most regulated old people I have every met in my life. GUB was a curmudgeon - who ate his meals at the exact same time every day, same thing every meal, with some slight variations during the dinner hour. He was very bright and invented all kinds of things. He invented a bird feeder that fed birds by body weight - he hated squirrels. My GAE was a corker. I spent a lot of time with her - she could knit a highly complicated pattern, in mohair, while carrying on a conversation, listening to the radio and watching television. One of my first memories of her was when I was around 5 and we had moved to Ohio from Virginia into a rented house (the house that caused my fear of bathtubs). The house was an odd configuration - you had to go through a bedroom to reach the bathroom. GAE was staying with us and late one night, as I started to make my way to the bathroom, I was gripped with fear -- there was a wild beast in the house! A tiger waiting to pounce on me and eat me! I ran screaming into my parents' room, hoping they could rescue me. It turned out to be GAE sawing lumber in the guest bed. Holy Moley, that woman could snore!