Family is a powerful creature. I spend exactly a quarter of the time wondering how the hell I survived growing up, another quarter time wishing I had a better relationship with my siblings, and the rest of the time I very simply love my family.
Last weekend, my family gathered to throw a fundraiser for my kick ass cousin Jim, who is a leukemia survivor and just had an experimental surgery involving a transplant of stem cells from his brother into his body...which has been amazing. His body not only has recovered, but, because of the stem cell transplant, Jim is no longer an indentifcal twin. He received the stem cell transplant from his older brother, Joe, and he now has Joe's blood type and will most likely develop Joe's food and plant allergies. Weird.
As I have been hanging out with my uber awesome niece Shayla and my little cousins Lonnie David, Danielle, and Edison James, I was struck that truly a new familial generation has arrived. Because Shayla is the oldest and calls me Uncle Billy her cousins have also taken to calling me Uncle Billy as well. Technically, Shayla is my niece, Lonnie david and Danielle are my first cousins, and Edison James is my first cousin once removed (the son of my cousin Ed). It is rather personally funny for me because I refer to my Dad's cousin with whom he was raised, my Aunty Bev, as Aunt Bev...and my other brothers and sisters also referred to Aunty Bev's sister Sharon as Aunty Sharon. I can actually remember when Sharon and her brother Vincent stilled lived at home with their Mother, so I call them by their first names. Family is fluid and funny.
One of my best memories from this weekend, besides nearly a hundred relatives and their friends coming together to raise thousands of dollars for my cousin Jim (at a honky tonk bar in Rice Lake, MN with my second cousin once removed's 70s rock cover band playing “Sweet Home Alabama), was of my little cousin Lonnie David. Lonnie is just shy of his third birthday and he is learning to be potty trained. Well, at one point, he went to the bathroom like a big boy (aka had peed in his baby pot). I was walking past the bathroom, and this adorable little brown boy rushes out of the bathroom and says,
“Uncle Billy, give me high five.”
So I give him a high five.
“Uncle Billy, give me a kiss!”
So I give him a kiss.
“Yuck!” He says and wipes his face giggling.
I was dying of laughter at that point. The kid has impeccably comedic timing, and in a family where sarcasm is a genetically inherited trait that boy is gonna give Margaret Cho a run for her money.
The other golden moment of the weekend was the night I spent at my Aunt Susie's house. Aunt Susie has always been an early riser. The new house that my Uncle Joe built her is fairly open. Two of my cousins and I had slept on the second floor in the loft/office area. So voices from the living room carried easily upstairs. Since I was so far north that it was too cold for Jesus to visit for most of the year, the sun comes up about as soon as it sets in the summertime. So, I woke up Sunday morning to a chorus of voices and laughter. And then I hear the overdeveloped, uberpowerful longs of my two year old cousin Edison James shout, “Is Uncle Billy still sleeping?”
I took this as my cue that I must have slept in ridiculously late. I come down the stairs, contacts scratching my eyeballs, and I see my Aunt Sue frying sausages in the kitchen. The sun is up and everyone else is sitting in the living room. I ask Aunt Sue, “What time is it.”
“It's getting' late. Twenty past six!” She said it with such wicked delight, that I screwed up my face, grabbed a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie and said, “You people are sick. I'm going back to bed.”
I then lumbered up the stairs and laid back down until eight.
Family is something else. Our is as dysfunctional as most, better than some, and worse than others...but when it comes down to it...we are like the Irish Clans of old...you fuck with one of us...you fuck with all of us...so you better bring your shillelagh or your stem cells, cuz it's on.