Life is getting back to whatever passes for normal with an infant, and now I have time to process again. I finally have some time to reflect on the big event of the past month: the trip to North Dakota. We're advanced enough medically that five living generations of a family isn't as rare as it once was, but we're also changing society in a way that delays having children, so it may become rarer despite medical advances. At any rate, my family has been blessed to have five surviving generations, a linked bloodline of five people counting back to 1911. It was a great weekend of family memories and fun. And the side benefits were great: after spending all but the first month of Drew's life by ourselves, it meant a lot for so many of his relatives to be there to see Drew experience a pool for the first time, to watch as he first learned how to munch on his toes, to share in his amazing smiles. My grandfather worked the trip into his chemo schedule, and in a recent spate of news of bad weather across the country, it was a nice prayer answered that their drive back home didn't delay them and interrupt his very important regimen. My uncle who hasn't seen my great-grandmother in twenty-four years surprised us all by showing up for the weekend.
But all those great stories aside, I keep coming back to this picture. I know it will be the first image that comes to mind when I reflect on this trip over the years. The five generations picture is great--despite the fact that I've still got ten pounds of baby fat to lose--but it's posed, it's heritage. This picture here is a moment. Great-Great Grandma Arel is saying something to Drew, and he's listening intently. I'm not sure I heard what she said then, and I know Drew couldn't have understood it, but it seems to represent the entire point of the weekend. A sharing of wisdom, a serious encounter. Great-Great Grandma Arel is looking at Drew, fully aware of who he is and of who she is, the single point from which at least 50 people are connected by blood (and if I had a better grip on all my cousins, I'd know the exact number). And Drew is looking back, very serious, very attentive, with the mind of a beginner, full of curiosity, wondering who he is, who she is, and who those 50 people are and who else is to come.
I've never had much of a chance to get to know my great-grandmother well, and I'm not sure my mother had much of a chance either. Mom lived decently far away from North Dakota growing up--though not quite as far as I did--ensuring that any visit would be brief and usually a part of a "quick, we've got two weeks to visit everybody, gotta smush it all in" mindset. Plus, my great-grandmother hasn't been able to travel much herself for a while now. I do know that she lived on her own until a year ago when her circumstances no longer allowed her to do so. She's survived as a widow for thirty years (actually, longer than that, I think). And despite the fact that she hasn't been happy in the nursing home, she had lots of smiles for everyone that weekend. She keeps a rosary by her favorite chair and that chair doesn't face the TV in her room, it faces a bulletin board brimming with pictures of her family.
I hope Drew absorbed a lot in that moment, looking into his great-great grandmother's eyes. There's a lot of wisdom and love there, and even though I only had brief moments to encounter it myself, I feel truly blessed to have witnessed it at all. Yes, this picture will be the first image that comes to mind when I think of this special weekend.