May 26th, 2002

it's long, but it's a good one

I don't know if I can adequately capture into words the feeling I've had tonight.

It seems blashpemous to even come inside the house and get on the impersonal computer to even try. But I will.

I had a family reunion this weekend which was centered around my grandfather's 80th birthday. I got to see all the relatives that live close, and a whole bunch who don't. I got to meet a bunch of people I really didn't know before, and catch up with cousins I haven't seen in a couple years. People sure do change quickly in the high school years. My cousin Matt was just an annoying little kid last time I saw him. Now he's taller than I am and speaks more intelligently than I did at his age, and we had lots to talk about. A common demographic, I guess.

Last night we had dinner at the hotel that most of the out of town family is staying at. After dinner everyone took turns standing up and sharing memories of my grandfather and telling what he means to them. It was really a moving time for me, and I don't say that often. More people who spoke ended up crying than didn't. One thing that really caught my attention was that a couple of the people who spoke were of my generation, my cousins. I looked at them. One has four children, and one is pregnant with her first. Both married. It was just a weird feeling to realize that we are adults now. There's another generation coming up below us where we used to be. These cousins who spoke, we used to play together and just be little kids together. Now we have a few years behind us and it's just an interesting feeling to kind of really realize and accept that.

Tonight we had a cookout at my parents house. I think there were somthing like 45 people there, which is a hell of a lot of people to try to fit into their house. It's a decent-sized house, but come on, 45 people. But it was so much fun. Just talking and laughing and noise and hubbub and smiles and picture taking and picture showing the whole time. If I were my dad I'd have been proud to have been able to host something like that. To be able to show what I'd worked for all my life, and even if only for one evening, share it with that many people.

Driving home was the best part though. It sounds odd to say that, but that was the first chance I really had to just slow down and reflect on the whole thing. The window was down, the highway stretching out in front of me, fading to black as it reached out beyond my headlights. The sky gently glowing from the lights of the city in the distance in front of us , with lightning occasionally flashing on the horizon and the cool wind blowing through the car. "Indiana" by The Samples playing on the cd and the sweet smell of some night-blooming flower alternating with the yummy smell of Tandra's cigarette, and I just thought. I just thought about the whole weekend and all the people I got to talk to. All the old people who remember me when I was "this big", the cousins my age who I've known since we were "that big", my father's cousins who I am now old enough to not only speak intelligently with, but to impress with stories of the promising beginning of my career. Remembering each person's face, smiling and laughing. So many smiling faces. Tandra's got a good family, but when I think about her background, it makes me realize all the more how lucky I am to have the family I do. How lucky I am to have been born into this family, to these parents. Maybe I chose them; if so, I'm glad I did. It's nights like tonight that put the whole world and life in general in perspective. Last night my Uncle was talking about having known my grandfather, and he said, "what a fine thing to have known you." I realized what a fine thing it is to me to have known all of these people.

Tandra and Xandria went with me. Xandria was a huge hit, as Tandra said. She was in fine form, just cute as a bug. Talking to everyone, letting strangers pick her up and talk to her and play with her, completely comfortable around everyone. I know Tandra really likes my family. I know that she looks at them, looks at where I come from, and it helps her to understand why I am the way I am. Helps her to realize that she really can trust me, because trust is all I've really ever known in my life, and I realize now how lucky I am to have a life like that.

I think now about how good Tandra is, and how she deserves a life like that. She has had pretty much the opposite, with a few exceptions. I ask myself, who am I to dangle this in front of her but always leaving that doubt, that question, of whether or not I'm going to take it away? Who am I to earn the trust not only of her, but of her children, but not make that commitment of always being there? I don't want to be just another disappointment for her. I don't want to start her kids' life out that way. Even at their young age, they've had enough of that sort of experience, I feel.

Tonight I watched the white ranch-style wooden fences rushing past in the moonlight as we drove through the gently rolling prairie of Kansas and I decided that life really isn't so bad. I've always loved life and I've always been an optimist but I haven't always been so happy about living here in Wichita. I complain about the lack of culture and the fact that the town is too small and that there are no geographical features to speak of, but tonight I didn't mind. Tonight I felt that feeling of home. No matter where I go in my life or what I do, Kansas will always be home to me. There's nothing I can do about that now. I will always love the summer night drives on the flat highway with music playing. I will always love the unparalleled thunderstorms, and their aftermaths, with lightning flashing from all directions and the sound of softly rolling thunder fading away.

And I realized something else. I realized what a fine thing it is to have someone next to me who is willing to commit the rest of her life to making me happy, if only I say the word. Someone who is willing to work as hard as she can with the only goal being to make us happy. To live out our lives together, sharing experiences together, the good and the bad as well. If only I choose to take her, I can take experiences like this weekend and share them with her for the rest of our lives. And I want to. Who better to love, than someone who loves me back like she does? I think maybe it might not be such a bad thing to keep her around. Lord knows I'm lucky to have found her in the first place, I think maybe I'd be a damn fool not to keep her around.

I think I will.
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