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Saturday, July 13, 2024 at 4:18 AM

We’ll work on prayers for intervention

A STORY WORTH TELLING

G

“Family reunions.

Where generations are united, and memories are rekindled.”

— True statement. Author unknown.

What were the odds, we surmised while talking about it? A miracle?

Nothing quite so divine, but certainly, some intervention was involved.

On that, we all agreed.

Whatever it was, the tale was told more than once at the family reunion in Abilene last weekend. Where sharing memories reign supreme.

I’ve read recently that family reunions in America are declining.

Please don’t tell my family.

The descendants of my mother’s parents, Arthur George and Bernice Conlee Johnson, conducted a memorable long weekend gettogether in west Texas last weekend. Forty-nine reunion believers from my mother’s side of the family who were raised on the importance of family togetherness traveled from as far away as Ohio, Tennessee and Center in deep east Texas to catch up, recount memories and keep the family tradition alive and well.

My earliest childhood memories of Kentucky Johnson family reunions were in the Blue Grass state, where every sibling was present. No small feat for a family that scattered as they grew up. Mom moved to Texas, where she lived her life. She was followed by two sisters who also made Texas their home. Another sister settled in Ohio, and the youngest, a brother, stayed in southern California after discharge from the Navy before later moving to Texas.

Reunions have remained a time for stories. Updated news about each new family. About growing up.

About happiness and about sorrow. Plus a few about the challenges of sometimes getting everyone to the gatherings supplemented with lots of snappy cheese dip and Ale-8-1 soft drinks— both Kentucky traditions rooted in the Winchester area.

After some 70-plus years, the stories are still repeated. I’ve heard most of them more times than I can count.

Including some I heard again this year for the umpteenth time. But I’ll listen to them as long as they are still being told because, with each recitation, there are variations that only time and the love for recounting family history firsthand can enhance.

So how does a family with deep Kentucky roots come to converge on Abilene for family reunions?

Families expand, family trees grow new branches and generations move to meet new opportunities. Getting together every year requires traveling across the state, and sometimes across the country. With that, some of the intervention mentioned above is essential.

Like the time Uncle Bill, Mom’s baby brother, made the trek to Kentucky from California in the mid 50s with his family traveling in his red Mercury convertible. He made it as far as the Oklahoma Turnpike before the car quit on him in the middle of the night.

I’ve heard the story and have foggy memories about part of it as well. But my five or six years of age at the time memories are somewhat less-than-vivid. Except those of that gorgeous red convertible.

We were traveling from west Texas with a plan to meet Bill at a predetermined point on the turnpike that night.

After reaching the meeting spot and waiting more than a reasonable amount of time, Dad started backtracking and found Bill and his family stranded.

As you process the story, factor in the fact that this was when cell phones and GPS devices were still science fiction. Before air-conditioned cars when trips were often planned at night when it was cooler.

Dad got help, the car was repaired and everyone made it to Kentucky in time to enjoy snappy cheeses and Ale-8s.

Intervention was still working well this year when history repeated itself. As in years ago, family members were coming from all directions. Flying. Driving.

I left east Texas before lunch Thursday and headed west without knowledge of anyone else’s itinerary.

Approaching the destination city as dinner time neared, I called Abilene cousin Fred Scott, who gave me the address of a restaurant on the east side of town where inbound early arrivals were converging. I plugged the address into GPS, smiled and relaxed because I was less than an hour away.

Not five minutes later, my cousin was calling, “Where are you?”

I thought, “A couple of minutes closer than I was when we just talked.” Before I had time to question his question, he said, “Kama’s car has broken down on I-20 at the 525 mile-marker.

Are you anywhere near that?”

“Let me see … I don’t know.”

His daughter was stranded on the interstate with her kids. My relaxed feeling turned to tension and concern.

Then I saw it. Mile marker 324 flashed past me.

“I’m right behind her,” I called back.

In less than 10 minutes after answering the call, I was pulling up behind them on the service road. Neither of us knew we were traveling anywhere near each other. Coincidence? I think not.

Everyone made it to dinner and the storytelling sessions were underway. “You won’t believe what happened today.”

Family. United in generations of love and often repeated stories.

The best parts of a reunion. I’m somewhat concerned, however, that the snappy cheese and Ale-8 tradition has been waning recently. I’ll take the lead to correct that before next year.

In the meantime, we’ll work on prayers for intervention that everyone arrives safely. And in time for stories, snappy cheese and Ale-8.


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