I happen to be attending a seaside family reunion celebrating my father’s 95th birthday. Though not an especially large family (e.g. my 2 brothers and I only have one cousin) every member and significant other has managed to make it here with kids, grandkids, or as this occasion emphasizes, great-grandkids (7 of those, btw)—several of whom I am meeting for the first time, along with a couple of new partners for the adults. I’m reminded that family is a dynamic concept, never exactly fixed; more like an undulating tidal current leaving new revelations on the shore while drawing some alluvium back out to sea.
We haven’t done this very often over the years. As with many families, weddings and funerals have been the most frequent lures. But evidently, a 95th birthday is a rare enough occurrence to draw everyone together revivifying memories and impressions generated by the mix and match fusion of choice and genetics. And I marvel how the Bauman clan is but one membrane of an intricately complex network of other family conflations represented by the non-DNA related relatives here. On and on this web extends, ultimately encircling the globe.
“Six degrees of separation” is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in the maximum of six steps. But for a moment this weekend, a 25-member tribe celebrates a milestone of its oldest progenitor. It’s a good thing.
And a complicated thing, because families are complicated, after all. We’re all glad to be here. But I imagine everyone will be glad to return to the comfort of their individual burrows as well where everything is as it should be, and where each sub-clan can safely chat about the relatives. Know what I mean?
Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, once remarked to me that one notable day each of us is born into a biological family and then we spend the rest of our lives seeking out our truest family. That was a liberating concept to me at the age of 29, and still nourishes me, but in the meantime, I have also been nourished by the continuing saga of the clan of people to whom I am organically connected. And I am still learning how these connections have fashioned me and how important they are to my own evolving.
All of my grandparents, as well as my parents, reached the age of 89 or 90. Though no guarantee, that’s good genetic odds for me—25 or 30 more years to go perhaps. Or perhaps not.
In the meantime, I remain profoundly grateful for the gift of family, both the given and the chosen, (including, btw, the family of Christ Church). God is good.