July 19, 2015

A Trip To Strengthen Family Bonds


 I grew up in a very small family. For reasons he never really explained, my dad had no contact with his two brothers. I have uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews I never met. My mom's family was even smaller: one unmarried brother. He was an important influence in my life and I still miss him 30 years after his death. But, a Lowry family reunion was not very large.

On the other hand, Betty comes from a family with all sorts of connections, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. At this point, many of them have passed on. Even so, she can count at least two dozen folks outside our immediate family who have a relationship to her.

Realizing that the passage of time does tend to cause relative shrinkage, she was determined to put together a family reunion this year. As a part owner of coal and natural gas holdings back East, she decided to try for a gathering centered around the annual coal company meeting held each June in a small town in West Virginia.

Through hard work and efforts from her brother who lives in Pittsburgh, a Montgomery clan gathering did take place in the tiny town of Terra Alta early last month. Circumstances managed to knock several folks from the "we are coming list" at the last minute. But, nine of us gathered for stories, pictures, and shared meals together. 

As a member of this group by marriage, I must admit I approached the event with some trepidation. The cost was not insignificant and it was to come just two weeks before our 2 month RV trip (which was cancelled at the last minute). The idea of looking at photos of long dead folks, touring cemeteries to find grave stones, and listening to stories about people I barely (or never) knew, sounded like a long weekend.

As I often learn my preconceived attitude was completely wrong. The four day trip was fun, meaningful, and a satisfying journey. Betty had the time of her life seeing loved ones for the first time in years. I enjoyed the conversations over meals or sips of honey whiskey. Our cottage on the grounds of a golf course-resort was comfortable and spacious. 

Before and after the West Virginia part of the trip, we spent two days with her brother and his family in suburban Pittsburgh.  My grandparents on my mom's side lived in Pittsburgh, so I spent lots of time there as a youth. The Steel City is one of my favorite places: the neighborhoods, parks, and downtown are enchanting.

While the weather was either rainy or very humid, both provided a change from our desert climate, so Betty and I enjoyed the differences. We agreed we wouldn't want to live with that weather on a permanent basis, but it was fun to see and feel rain for the first time in months.

I doubt if Betty and her brother will ever organize another gathering like this one. Several of those in attendance are having problems with travel or ill health. For some, the cost and distances are too great. It was very important to her that this went well and built memories for all in  attendance. In that regard, her efforts were a complete success.

Here are a few pictures of some of what we saw and experienced during our time in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. 
Betty's first childhood home in suburban Pittsburgh

Her next home in Pittsburgh
Her grandparents' summer home in West Virginia
Her brother's home

Relatives final resting place in West Virginia

More relatives

Our cottage home for the reunion

The very comfortable living room
West Virginia countryside

Pretty park in Pittsburgh

A beautiful setting

We had a tremendous time in a beautiful part of the country with great people and memories.

16 comments:

  1. Hats off to Betty for organizing her family's reunion--no easy task. Life can get so busy that we forget to look back. Those trips down memory lane and reconnecting with family members can give us a sense of belonging. I love to hear the old timers tell stories of perseverance. As I grow older, there are fewer of those folks, and I realize I'm on my way to becoming one. Bob, it's all about the journey--there's satisfaction if we take the time to look and listen.

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    1. It was a lot of work for both Betty and her brother. But, bottom line, was an all around success, and something that all the relatives felt was worth the effort.I know Betty absolutely loved being back in the area and being surrounded by family, both living and dead.

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  2. It's great to see all those people you haven't seen in a long time and reestablish those connections ... and in such a nice setting too!

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    1. It was a very different environment than the desert!

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  3. We drove through West Virginia on our way to Delaware. Beautiful country!
    Betty was brave to take on the family reunion. Lots of work, loads of fun, great memories! Good job!

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    1. I like West Virginia. It is a very pretty state, particularly in the northern section where we were.

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  4. We lived in Mt. Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb for six years when the kids were still in school. It's a beautiful city and one of my favorites. Sounds like a successful event! Kudos to Betty!
    b

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    1. Betty grew up in Mt. Lebanon! The two childhood houses pictured above are there. It remains a very nice part of Pittsburgh.

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    2. I thought it looked like Mt. Lebanon! Our kids graduated from Mt. Lebanon high school. We lived on Outlook Dr. and I loved that house!

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    3. Are you and Betty long last neighbors? The 2nd house pictured above is on Outlook Drive! She lived in that house from 1961 until 1966. You two very well might know each other from childhood!

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  5. While growing up we had many large family gatherings, due primarily to the fact that one set of grandparents had a large home in the country that was perfect for such gatherings. When I married we live near many of Deb's Italian relatives, so that tradition continued, at least until the generation before us started to pass.

    Over time the kids and grandkids have dispersed around the country and sometimes around the world. Very difficult to even attempt to put something together like in the old days. In my case I also drew away from my brothers and sisters due to not seeing eye to eye on many topics, so I am not close to anyone on that side. I think due to these factors and many others, including the faster pace of life itself, we have lost much of what we knew growing up. Not sure it will ever come back, either. Nice to see you guys were able to get something together, but the fact that it was only nine people shows how such gatherings have gone by the wayside.

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    1. Betty was the youngest in her clan, so time has claimed many. We had expected 13, but at the last minute four just couldn't make it fit into their schedules. Even so, it was important for all of them to share stories and memories, probably for the last time.

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  6. My immediate paternal family had a reunion earlier this month, the first in 14 years. My father and his 2 siblings are deceased now, leaving to survive my mom and one aunt, both in their 80's. Five of 9 cousins attended. Those 9 cousins now have 15 kids between them. Eight of those 15 kids attended as well. I am the only cousin with grandchildren. It does take effort to arrange such a gathering and it's impossible to pick a date that suits everyone but my cousin made the effort, those that could, attended and it was good to be together with family at a happy occasion. We've already picked the date for next year. Kudos to Betty for making the effort. The alternative is to not try and then get together at the next funeral and say "I wish I had...."

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    1. Betty's last family gathering of any size was 23 years ago for her father's funeral, so they were long overdo. With almost all of her relatives living in the West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland area, Phoenix can feel like the other side of the globe. So, yes, it takes work, but ultimately is worth the work.

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  7. Great post, love seeing family related posts :)

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