Middle Age is the New 30something 04-24-14

It's never too late to reconnect with family

column042414

AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE - This photo shows my second and third cousins on my mother's side of the family. Two of these women are laughing for reasons I cannot recall; I only know that I'm glad I was there to see them laughing.

I'm not trying to shoulder my way in on Geraldine Marks's territory, but the picture in my column today contains many stories.

The first story is how I came to take the picture, or why I was with the people pictured. In the photograph, from left to right (or clockwise) are Emma Carpenter; Tammy Carpenter; Brenda Carpenter Crawford (laughing); Monty Carpenter; Hannah Carpenter (standing) and Lynnette Carpenter (doubled over with laughter).

My grandmother, Madelyn Carpenter, was the sister of Brenda and Monty's father, Charles F. "Bud" Carpenter. We are second cousins. Emma, the daughter of Francis "Butch" Carpenter (not pictured; out of town for work) and Tammy Carpenter, and Hannah, daughter of Monty and Lynnette, are my third cousins.

I grew up in Marion County, as did Brenda and Monty, albeit during a different era. Monty, his wife and their children, have pretty much been settled a few miles away in Harrison County for a good chunk of time; so have Butch and his family.

Brenda - whose three sons live away from here - lived far away in Florida at one time, but returned with her late husband, Richard, to WV in the '70s to raise her children closer to home.

So, whenever I have been in WV, these family members have always been nearby. I just never got the chance to spend much time with them.

Then, my mother passed away, and I saw Brenda, Monty and Butch for the first time in decades during the funeral. The first thing that struck me was that Monty is a clone of his father. The way he walks, talks, his face and facial expressions - seeing him made me feel I was seeing Uncle Bud again.

And every time I heard Brenda laughing from somewhere in the funeral home - it was okay: my mom would have loved to know people were having a good time - I thought her mother, my Aunt Marion, was in the next room.

Being able to remember Uncle Bud and Aunt Marion in this way was a joy. He was always a dapper, suave gentlemen who never walked as much as "sauntered" along, back straight, chin out. In my memories of her, Aunt Marion, is always laughing, and she had a wonderful laugh to pass on to Brenda. Uncle Bud and Aunt Marion were one of those couples who started out in love and grew more madly in love with each year that passed in their marriage.

So, after spending the night with Brenda, we went to Monty and Lynnette's home for Easter lunch, where the photo in my column this week was taken.

The food was delicious, the conversation stimulating (these new-found cousins of mine might actually be more liberal than I am, if that's possible). Emma and Hannah were tickled to know that they'd be taking a class or two together at Fairmont State University in the fall, where Emma will be a junior and Hannah will be a freshman. We all wondered about Hillary's chances in 2016 (and were all glad to think that her being elected President would mean we'd finally get Bill back where he's needed).

And we talked about the people who made us all - my late mother, their late mother, our grandmothers, uncles, and our other cousins.

I don't think anyone at the table that afternoon knows how much I'm going to miss being able to see them. But I feel lucky enough to even have been able to reconnect - for this, I suppose, it's never too late.