Family Reunion

Last week I took my two oldest kids to our family reunion in Southern Idaho. I have a great family, a huge family, something like 130 aunts, uncles, and cousins, and that's just my mom’s side.  We spent the week at Lava Hot Springs, a natural hot springs in Idaho, complete with scorching natural mineral pools and a water park with slides and Olympic diving platforms.

My kids loved the pools. My son rode the water slides about 40 times, just doing laps over and over, tirelessly climbing the hundreds of steps to reach the top of the slides, and confirming to me that kids love exercise if they don't think it's exercise, especially when there is a 40 foot straight down, stomach lifting slide as a payoff. My daughter loved the diving boards, jumping fearlessly off the 35 foot platform like it was nothing. She even talked me into joining her for a jump.

With a family this big, there is always enough people to organize a game of something, football, pick up basketball, I'm sure if they could make backgammon into a competitive athletic event, they would, and I hope they don't hear about chess boxing (I think we'd change it to Backgammon Wrestling). So, I was watching my cousins play a game of water basketball, which sounds harmless and tame, until you see the way my cousins play it, with a testosterone-infused combination of water polo, boxing, basketball, and crocodile hunter alligator wrasslin'. And these aren't small boys, they are meat and potatoes Idaho and Utah stock, tall, muscular, and athletic. I'm the oldest cousin and I stopped participating in these contests years ago. I know my athletic limits, and I seem to prefer jogging slowly over mountains. I was sitting there on the side of the pool, content to watch the carnage unfold, when I was asked to join a team of 5 for next game. They were one short, and so, against my better judgment, and risking months of training, I joined in. It was a tough game, no injuries, and we won best of 3. The only issue I had was that the blisters from the cuyamaca 3 peaks 50k that were close to healing were completely ripped off the bottom of my feet, leaving a couple bloody holes and baby skin on the bottoms of each big toe. I was going to email my coach and complain about these small issues along with the slight inevitable fever after hanging out with about 60 kids under the age of 7 and all the snot, spit, and undiscovered scientific wonders that come with that. I was even going to email my running partner who works at Life Technologies and ask him about DNA splicing to quickly regrow some fresh skin on the bottoms of my feet. What could go wrong?


Then I read Lucho’s blog about his Silver Rush mountain bike race and how he crashed and continued to ride in semi-consciousness and while his brain was bleeding. He even tried to talk the doctor out of making him drop. That is one of the disadvantages of having a tough coach. I can't really complain about some small blisters and a sore back while he reads my emails through eyes marred by internal bleeding.

I did have a couple of great runs in Idaho. Most of them were done early in the crisp mountain morning air while the kids slept. I ran through green fields, past a cemetery, cows, horses, dogs who barked then ran away and under a morning full moon. The runs were mostly slow and easy and I didn't really feel the 5-6,000 feet of altitude until I did a progression run. My legs felt a little heavy towards the end of that one, but I finished it fast and felt good sitting in the hot springs later that evening. My torn skin bloodied my socks, and unlike some, I won't be sending mine to the baseball hall of fame.

One of the highlights of the reunion was seeing all the small cousins gather around the computer to chat via skype with my sister Sharlie, who wasn't able to make the reunion due to the altitude. She is on oxygen full time at this point, and I know it was difficult for her to miss the reunion, but it was a special moment as her beaming face lit up the computer screen. She continues to inspire all of us.


We all sat and listened to my grandparents, who are 83 and 79, and have raised 10 children. They are full of knowledge and faith, and while I don't share in their faith, I enjoy listening to their wisdom. My grandpa has written a family history full of colorful characters, people who crossed the plains, outlaws, plantation owners from Georgia and polygamists from Utah. They crossed the plains, many dying on the way, and helped settle Utah, Idaho and Montana. I would love to dig up some of the old stories and delve deeper into the lives of some of these characters.

Glad to know that I'm not the only one in the family with a criminal record
As we assembled for our family meeting, my grandpa told us a joke to explain how they ended up with ten kids. When he was younger, living in a small town in southern Idaho, he lived next to railroad tracks. In those days, when the train would come to an intersection it would sound the whistle...they didn't have the gates that dropped and closed off the roads. So, when the train would come through town in the middle of the night and blow the whistle, it would wake up both my grandma and grandpa. My grandpa would stir and my grandma would say, “are you going to go back to sleep, or what.” he is a little hard of hearing, so he would always answer, “what,” and that is how they ended up with ten kids. Pretty funny for an 83 year old.

I'm so happy that my kids have the opportunity to connect with their family, especially their great-grandparents. I want them to appreciate what came before them and to draw strength from the blood of generations of strong, independent, pioneering people running through their veins.

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