Last week I came back from 4 days of vacation with my siblings at a family reunion in the Seattle area. This was our first reunion without my sister Alice (who died in June of 2021), so we took some time over breakfast one morning to tell stories and share memories–a kind of informal memorial service, I guess–and I think we all felt a bit of closure as a result.
Some of you may remember that I was somewhat anxious about this particular trip, since I’m the only liberal left in the family (now that Alice is gone). But for the most part, we kept away from political topics (though the “evil” of mask mandates and critical race theory [CRT] did come up from time to time!). What helped keep our gathering friendly was the word games (like “Bananas” and “Balderdash”) and card games (like “Spoons,” which entails grabbing spoons and cards and sometimes leaping over the table). It’s interesting: When you’re playing a game with gusto, the political issues that normally divide you lose a bit of their power to raise your hackles.
I remember once hearing a man say that during the Vietnam War he and his father couldn’t talk about anything except baseball. But baseball turned out to be important, he said, because it was the one thing they both had positive feelings about, when they had nothing else in common. Later on, when they finally did have other, deeper things to share, they didn’t have to “start over” after years of silence. They had already been talking–it’s just that now they could add new topics to baseball teams and scores.
I realize that playing games together (or talking baseball) is no substitute for heart-to-heart conversations on the values that guide our lives–and I hope to have an opportunity to eventually have that kind of conversation with each of my family members. But until that day, I’m glad we had these opportunities to laugh at jokes, share memories from the past, and play games together.
I’ll have more to add to this story in next Friday’s Parson to Person, but for now let me just say that games and sports scores and small talk may seem trivial (and/or unimportant); but these “trivial” things can sometimes help hold you together until the time comes when you have other things to share. In my case, they reminded me that I love my family and they love me–which in itself is pretty important.
I’ll have something to add to my story (about an incident in the airport) in next Friday’s “Parson to Person.” But until then I wish you, as usual, a little…
peace and unrest,