I made a mad-dash trip to Chillicothe this weekend to visit my Uncle Jimmy and his partner, Bob. We don’t see these marvelous men too often since they live on the west coast, but I am grateful for their annual visits to Grandmother Horn’s house. Our family is tremendously blessed to have our matriarch still with us. At the age of 92, she lives on her own, and her sharp memory impresses everyone who knows her.
Because Nora raised her grandchildren, we all have a deep, abiding sense of family. She constantly reminds us of how important it is to stay connected to your heritage, and she taught us to show up. We made numerous trips to Chillicothe throughout my childhood and youth, and I still stop at Grandmother Horn’s for a restroom break and a diet coke every time we make the long drive to Lefors. Like my siblings and I, Nora hails from a family of four. She remained close to her brother and sisters until their untimely deaths and part of our visits always include reminiscing about the past.
Several generations have emerged from the Horn clan, and I feel honored to know my second and third cousins. Although our lives have taken different paths, we all do our best to gather at Grandmother Horn’s humble abode at least once a year to reconnect and recollect about days gone by.
This year seemed a little different. My dad’s first cousin was recently released from jail, and although she was physically present, her absence was felt by everyone in the room. Her aloof behavior caught us all off guard, and Grandmother Horn repeatedly reminded us to include her. Like all families, we’ve had our fair share of troubles, but we welcome our wayward prodigals back into the fold with arms wide open. I haven’t seen Laurie in awhile, and the years have not been kind. I can only imagine the horrors she’s faced, and although I still hold some resentment about how she took advantage of Nora and Grandmother Horn during drug binges, I felt a deep sense of empathy for her.
Laurie is estranged from her children, and after years of fighting addiction, Grandmother Horn is her only remaining relative who tolerates her ongoing shenanigans. Nora worries about what will become of her once we lose Grandmother, and during this recent visit, my heart softened as I considered her brokenness and shame. She helped with lunch and tidied up the kitchen, but she seldom made eye contact, and you could tell she was uncomfortable in her own skin. It must be dreadful to live down those kinds of demons.Jimmy’s charming personality lightened the atmosphere, and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting about our recent travel adventures. He and Bob had just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. where they took a private tour of the White House. Although we avoided conversations about politics, we did engage in dialogue about the changing world and how slow progress seems to be as it relates to racial relations and equality for all.
As the afternoon sun began to set on the horizon, I knew it was time for me to head back to the Metroplex. We’d spent hours chatting, and I took a moment to soak in the scene of four generations gathered together in a tiny house on the edge of town. It’s easy to take family for granted, but this trip reminded me of how lucky I am to be a part of something bigger than all of us – belonging, loyalty, and love.