"It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed." Art Wolf

Monday, March 19, 2018

What do you call a gathering of cousins?

One Birthday and One Funeral

It might be recommended by some to make two posts here but some how in my mind and heart the two are connected.   I think both individuals though honored individually would have wanted to be there for each other.

First came waking up at 3:30 am to drive to the Cincinnati airport and find the long term parking and its promised early morning shuttle.  I checked that box off successfully.  

 The birthday party plans for my Aunt Elaine out in Seaside, Oregon, came first.  She was my Uncle George's wife.  Being the last of the generation of my mother and her three sibling's generation, at 100, she thought it was time to party.   I believe she even underwrote part of the festivities.   Her children and the cousins had available multiple options for shelter  and housing including a lodge that slept 17.  My cousin Julie's daughter, Porche, stepped in to provide cooking for the larger meals. She runs a food truck back in Denver and is multitalented far beyond her "cup cake" menu.  Cousin Dorothy took Porche's list and did the shopping ahead with a nod to the Vegans, non gluten and Keto diets among the group. If someone was hungry it was all on them. A wander through the kitchen provided many choices for snacks and munchies. I am not a coffee drinker but apparently quality coffee was high on the request list and readily available. And there was wine.  It was a great idea to provide family meals in one place and increase the ability of everyone to stay together.  The Lodge had a large main table with expanding leaves and a smaller table next to the wall that made a fine children's seating area. With three large couches and additional chairs and seating options, there was a lot of seat swapping going on between cousins that had or had not seen each other in years and between the children of cousins who also may or may not have seen each other recently at family events.  

As family members traveled and arrived on Thursday, the word of my cousin Bill Burrowbridge's sudden and unexpected death back in Virginia hit many of us.  He was one of the east coast Burrowbridge cousins that had planned on attending.  He was the chief historian and chronicler of the Burrowbridge side of the family clan and had always carried his mother's legacy of keeping and supporting family (including distant cousins like myself) alive and well. 

Being together and knowing how much Bill would have enjoyed seeing everyone (and supplying us all with long lost family name connections) seemed to make us all appreciate our time to celebrate even more. I recommend any family members copy and borrow any pictures you may want.  I am not captioning most of them.  I also want to give a heads up to the cousins of the second and third generations.  There will be a test in the future. Albums will come out at a future at some 100 year old's birthday party or a funeral and questions will be asked.  As some of us witnessed, don't expect your mother to actually remember which baby she was holding on the day a certain picture was taken.  And it did not go unnoticed that Bill was not there to help us out as in, "Bill would know."

My cousin Julie's son Channing from Denver and Sue Burrowbridge from Annapolis, MD.

Frank Ryan, the younger.  Just want to confirm that back in Virginia when the Burrowbridge and Burroughs cousins consulted each other and our Grandpa was "Grandpa Ryan." and not known as Grandpa 'Low"  (Do not know the spelling here but was interested to know that the Ryan clan all referred to Grandfather that way. The name came about because he was Grandma Lola's husband.)  I did at least, early on, figured it out by listening to stories and conversations back in Seaside.   I do come from an interesting family.

Elaine Ryan, the birthday woman, on her 100th birthday.  She is legally blind, with some limited vision. She walks mostly with a cane and still lives by herself in a small home in Seaside that he rents from Dorothy and Tim.

Channing examining the portal on the front door of the lodge. It didn't seem to keep anyone out as most of us came in by the back and side doors. 

View of the ocean and Seaside on the far left from the back lawn of The Lodge.

The front of The Lodge.  There were multiple bedrooms on both floors and a total of 4 bathrooms.  Some folks stayed at Elaine's house and one of Dorothy's child and her grand children stayed with them out in the beautiful woods outside of Seaside.

There was time between Saturday and Sunday to drive both up and down the coast for sight seeing. I will concede that I may have seen more having some one else drive and/or driving a car rather than my rip up the highway in the RV. 

And sunsets from The Lodge.

The pictures sitting with Elaine on the bench were referred to as the Santa Claus pictures. Come sit and have your picture taken.   It worked out rather well actually.

Elaine and one of her granddaughter's Julie. 

Elaine with three of her children: Frank, Dorothy and Georgie.

Elaine's youngest son Paul was found and directed to join his siblings in a photo.

Don Burrowbridge helping Elaine make her way over the lawn and back to the Lodge.

Second cousins on the Ryan side. Channing had departed back to Denver earlier in the day.

A few pictures of Dorothy and Tim's home outside of Seaside.   Tim built the home, adding additional rooms over the years on property that had been in his family.

They get their water from the creek coming out of the mountains.  

View from the house looking back across the yard to Tim's shop.

Dorothy and I looking towards the shop with the house behind us across the foot bridge.  Dorothy and my Burrowbridge cousin, Jean, and I, are all about the same age.  

Tim's shop.

After making my way back through the airports it was time to turn around and the following weekend and with my car, make my way down through West Virginia to Blacksburg, Virginia,  and say good bye to Bill.

My cousin Bill was the one who would reach out and include any cousin he could find to attend what had started many years ago as "Burrowbridge Family Reunions."  Some of us took him up on his invite even when the reunion was at his older brother Don's house.  Those of us that made the trips soon realized that Don and Sue really did mean come as well as Bill.   My Aunt Marion, their mother and my mom's youngest sister, and my Uncle Don would have been so proud of them all.

Bill had most recent lived with his Wife Sara in Roanoke, VA, but Blacksburg and Virginia Tech were like a coming home for Bill and several of his siblings, as they had all lived there briefly or attended college there.

The service on Saturday was memorable in many ways but especially as we watch both Bill's sons model fatherhood as Bill might have modeled it.  Both Ryan and Adam had to struggle through their elegies with a small child held in their arms neither of which  under these stressful and emotional times wanted to be separated from their Dads. They both intensely observed their father's tear streaked face and then on occasion, tried to kiss the tears away.  Thank you Sara Wilson for coming prepared with extra Kleenex.

The cemetery deer watched us all cautiously from afar.   

Later at the reception at the German Club in Blacksburg, a voice called forth.  Let's head outside and get some group pictures.  Herding siblings and cousins from three generations is fun to observe when you are not the one responsible either for the herding of people or the taking of  pictures.  

First step is to get people to walk outside. Then you hope that they wait for further instructions.   You understand the Burrowbridge side of the family has done these large pictures before. I've been at some of the reunions and I looked through the old albums. It is still a skill that is never totally mastered.

The waiting for the "someone" to show their "leadership/directing" abilities and a voice that carries over the muted conversations and can find those whose attention is distracted by watching the dancing, running, playing children.  Stacy's group was mostly ready and waiting their turn.


Still sorting.

Bill's children and his grandchildren joined with Bill's Burrowbridge nieces and nephews their children.  

The Burrowbridge cousins by themselves.

Stacy's daughter waiting patiently.

The current elders of the Burrowbridge clan, Bill's siblings that were present: Carole, Lynn, Jean and Don.

Just because you are waiting for something doesn't mean you have to stay still.

And the third generation of nieces, nephews and cousins.....

I think some of us did hear Bill laughing with us over the course of the day. We, however, did have to make do with our imaginations of what his comebacks might have been to comments and situations throughout the day.  He would have had so much to share and add.  He would have reminded us all to enjoy the present. Listen to each other. Reach out beyond your comfort zones. Be present with one another. Connect. Look at those old photos, learn a bit of your history, share your stories.  Make new memories.   Be the one that can look back on some of the photo albums in ten, twenty, thirty years and recognize family faces. 

William Ryan Burrowbridge 1946-2018.