Sour Cream Onion Dip. Plain Wise Potato Chips. The New York Giants. UNC Basketball. Golf tournaments. Beach vacations in the motor home. Busch Gardens in shorts, white socks, and black dress shoes. Easter weekends. These are only a few things that remind me of Bill Eastwood. We all have that one relative that is a rock star in our world. He is mine. He is my Uncle Bill.
Stay with me here because this is all key to my weekend story. There will not be a quiz at the end however; all of this information will be on the final exam. Bill was the first son born to Grace and John Eastwood. He grew up a brother to John, Carol, and Grace. He married Mary and brought us Mary Grace, Billy, and Kathryn Rose. His brother John married Anne and had my sister Kathy and myself. Carol married Bill and brought us Bill and Diane. Grace married Alan and gave us Michael and Brian (and years later many more amazing cousins).
A few weeks ago, my Dad (that is right…John) asked if we would like to join he and my Mom on a trip to North Carolina to see Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill was recently diagnosed with the beginning stages of Dementia. Dad was insistent on seeing Uncle Bill now so that we could still witness his sharp wit. Kathy whipped the trip into shape and before we knew it…Kathy, Mom, Dad, and I were on a Delta flight to Greensboro, NC on March 31.
The plane took off and I realized how excited I was. It reminded me of how over the moon I would get when the Southern Eastwoods would drive to see the Northern Eastwoods a few times per year. I would wait for hours in the front window until their station wagon with the wood paneling would come gliding into the side of the house. All of the kids would produce and perform variety shows in my basement. We would eat at the “kids table” and devise game shows. We would have epic Easter egg hunts (at Easter of course – it would be weird if it was at Thanksgiving) and go to the beach or the Bronx Zoo on summer visits. Trips to Greensboro as kids was spent with fun, cookouts, and later many golf tournaments at the palatial Forest Oaks Eastwood Estates. We did not realize then that these tourneys would be legendary in our family history and storytelling. Words like “Shicken” and phrases such as “I think this just sucks” would reappear in every family story told by Billy and Aunt Mary. We would all fall down laughing. Our annual trek to Busch Gardens almost had a vanful of family members arrested on our quest to find a Waffle House. Good times indeed.
I was leaving my family behind while I traveled to Greensboro. Thoughts of what I needed to do upon my return was playing on my mind. Julia’s upcoming trip to Paris, the Junior Prom/Banquet, Jake’s job interviews, my work schedule, gym schedules, and a gazillion other things were floating in my head. Before I knew it, the pilot announced that we had landed in Greensboro. I glanced at my parents next to me. They looked so excited. Dad was nervous. He was worried about what he would find in Uncle Bill and it showed. My Mom…well she had somehow become involved with April the Giraffe and her impending birth and was concerned that she would miss the birth on the way to the hotel. They make me smile. I’m so happy I still have them with me every day.
Kathy’s carefully orchestrated details allowed us to sail through departure and the rental car pick up with ease. Waze navigated and delivered us to the hotel where we collapsed and let the cousins know we made it safely into town. I thought about my cousins. We were all over the place. Once one big family wrapped by a single cord, we had broken or unraveled into single cords…within our own families. We all had different responsibilities…sadness…deaths…second marriages…adoptions…sometimes horrible pain…and disabilities. We also had joy that we took time to celebrate every chance we can. This weekend though we were coming together again to rally behind Uncle Bill.
On day two together, my Dad fired up a slideshow he had put together of all of the last three family get togethers and played it while we were all together at an afternoon cocktail party. The room was hopping with the stories. All you heard was very loud laughing, screeching, and even some snorting by yours truly (you know you have gotten to me if I let out a snort). In the center of it all, was Uncle Bill sitting in front of the laptop watching the slideshow. He was smiling. The type of smile that you see on a child when he opens up his favorite gift on Christmas morning. It was the brightest smile I have seen in a very long time. The light was infectious. I took a step back and observed all of us. We were not 30, 40, and 50 year olds. We were 10 and 12 year olds again.
Sadly, we live in a today where it is all about instant gratification and the feeling that we are in a Power of One society. This weekend though….this weekend was not about each of us. It was about coming together as our family. When one of us is in need, we come together as family. It is powerful. None of our trials and troubles we may have at home were there. All of our single strands came together as one cord and it was wrapped around Uncle Bill. Someone pulled it tighter made him smile. It made us all smile.
It was hard to say goodbye to my cousins who are more like siblings to me. My mouth hurt from smiling and talking (my God I never stopped talking). Know what? I hope that hurt never goes away. I don’t ever want to know a day without my family. We are nuts, we are crazy, and the best part? We all love Uncle Bill. Thanks Billy, Paige, and Kathryn for the best weekend ever. I love you.