Warm, lazy summer months seems to be the time of the year when family reunions are held. Like many families, we went to our first one over the Fourth of July weekend.
Many family members really enjoy their reunions. They are times to get together with relatives we may not have seen since last year's reunion. Visiting about the family, sharing experiences, seeing the changes in each other and remembering those who have gone beyond during the year are part of the benefits of being together as a family.
Then, as we get older, there is one "trap" we sometimes tend to fall into - we want to talk about all of our "ailments" over the year. Yes, the years do bring about changes and health problems, but sometimes they can be the chief topic of conversation. We have no problem with sharing our problems and listening to concerns of others. It's one of the advantages of being together. But when talking about our ailments is the chief topic, it misses the real purpose of the reunion. It can be depressing, even more so than talking about this year's Cleveland Indians baseball team.
Another topic that too often becomes part of visiting by we "more mature" folks is all the medications we are taking - who is taking the most pills, what are they for, what works and what doesn't can bring about some lively discussions. One person may be taking a medicine that they say works wonders while others say they have taken it and had a lot of problems. Could be they are both right.
Be careful to not get into a discussion about herbal or "natural" medications. That's fuel for a real lively conversation with some on both sides of the issue. It can sometimes create an even more lively discussion than politics.
Now there is another one to stay away from - politics. Families can be widely divided in their political beliefs, and any discussion about politics can lead nowhere in a hurry. Better to stick to the weather or how the crops are doing or something safe like taking an afternoon nap.
Seriously, it does help to listen to each other with patience. Don't hurry that relative you haven't seen for a year. Show them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say. Don't be so busy thinking about what you want to say that you don't really hear the other person. After all, for those in the older age category, we never know if they will be with us another year. And given the risks of life, we never know if any of us will be at next year's reunion.
An early game of golf for some of the family members precedes the reunion we went to last week. As you might guess, we had to listen to some good-natured bragging from the one who won the game. They even have an old trophy that the winner's name is put on from year to year. This gives even more bragging rights for the one whose name is on the trophy the most times.
Lots of good food is always a great part of any family gathering and reunions are no exception. Bring your favorite covered dish is the order of the day with the burgers and brats cooked out on the grill. When one of the wives is asked for the recipe for the dish she brought, it is always a nice compliment. There can be some friendly competition to see who makes the best potato salad or baked beans or fresh fruit pie.
Unfortunately on Betty's side of our family, one of the reunions usually held was cancelled this year because of the loss of two of the older family members. Numbers of those interested became so small that, at this point, no one wanted to take the initiative to make arrangements for the gathering. There is a bit of sadness in the decision, and it emphasizes the importance of enjoying those times when a family can be together.
OK, if you want to talk about all the pills you are taking and all your ailments, that is your privilege as a senior member of the family!
Parker grew up in Trumbull County and is an independent writer for the Tribune.