The family picture shows a large group of smiling faces, many of them clearly related. Same eyes, same hair, same expressions. The others standing with them are not physically similar to each other, necessarily, but make no mistake about it – they are their own tribe.
You want to know the truth about the outlaws in your family? I think you can handle it.
Today I am celebrating the gift of my many aunts, uncles, and cousins; and I am mourning the loss of an uncle who was proud to call himself an “outlaw” among us.
In fact, he was a force behind the creation of an actual club for the in-laws of the family called The Outlaws, a group that held secret meetings for bonding and trouble making. At every family reunion, when the cousins gathered after our traditional group dinner for a meeting to discuss family business, The Outlaws always departed to their mischief – including inducting new members by throwing them fully clothed into the hotel pool. Then they would hang out and party and talk junk about the clan they had married into. Just a guess here. Of course, I’ve never attended an Outlaw gathering.
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Nor have my children. And it drives them crazy.
What are they doing? It’s a secret. Daddy knows but he won’t tell us. Can I go with them? No. Someday your spouse can. But they are having more fun than us! Yes, I believe they are.
While my Uncle Dan was a ringleader of The Outlaws, his family contributions weren’t limited to fun and games. With my cousin Karen he compiled our infamous family blue book, a substantial three-ring binder detailing our family’s history. This collection includes milestone moments all along our family tree – which is no tiny shrub. My great-grandparents had seven children and this collection includes information about all of their descendants. Uncle Dan also devised a number system to organize all of the branches of the tree. I am the firstborn of the third child of the third child (my grandmother and father were third born) and so my number is 331.
We always knew there were a lot of us; that was clear every time you showed up for a reunion and encountered endless cousins running around the courtyard, genial uncles visiting over a drink, cheerful aunts passing cookies and snacks while looking over old photo albums. This was such a gift my entire life – to know that no matter where I was or what was happening that there were all of these folks out in the world who only wanted good things for me. This great number of people, with our combined force of blood cousins and Outlaws, signified an obvious blessing. But it took a special kind of brilliance to quantify it.
Today I will give thanks for my family, especially my uncle, and even for my own Outlaw living under this roof. People come and go in life and that impermanence can be sad. But when family members leave such a substantial legacy of caring, the truth is, whatever law says that nothing lasts forever is clearly meant to be broken.
Want to get a better handle on in-laws and Outlaws? Firm up your understanding of your cousin connection with this explanation from genealogy.com, read a poignant story of family in Searching for Caleb by novelist Anne Tyler, and check out another cool legacy from my Uncle Dan Brown.