Memorial Day and family traditions

With Memorial Day just a few days away, I thought it would be a good time to talk about family traditions and what the holiday means to me.

I come from kind of a small family, so attending reunions is not something I grew up doing. But when I married Tuesday, I started going to the reunions put on by her family — the Butchers. Turns out I had no idea what a great time I was missing.

The Butchers definitely know how to hold a reunion. For more than 60 years, every Memorial Day weekend they rent out an entire campground at Grand Lake for somewhere between 160 and 225 family members to come out, camp out and have a great time fishing, riding bikes, playing cards and generally spending time with family.

The folks who come out range in age from a few weeks to more than 90 years old. Some come from very close by; others are from several states away. My wife has been coming to this same campground for the annual reunion for as long as she can remember. I hope our kids will still be coming when we're gone.

This annual reunion is one of the best traditions I can think of and the one I probably value the most. The Butchers are a wonderful family, and I'm proud to be part of it. My father-in-law was one of 18 blood siblings and three foster siblings. You can imagine how many cousins Tuesday has. I'm still trying to learn all the names.

One of the things I love most about the reunion is that I have three days with no deadlines, no obligations and no big demands — unless you count picking up ice cream at the nearby Dairy Queen. I'll bet you don't get many days like that either, but we all need them. It's unbelievably relaxing.

By far the best thing about our Memorial Day weekend is that we create a real sense of community for those three days. Yes, we're all family, but for those three days we're also a community, doing things together — from group meals to playing cards to a family church service on Sunday morning right in the middle of the campground. If that kind of experience won't recharge your batteries, I don't know what will.

Tuesday will spend time catching up with the relatives she doesn't see that often. My daughter, Kylee, will probably play a lot of board games and go tubing or knee boarding. My son, Kade, is really into riding his bike. There will also be at least one big water balloon fight.

I'll probably go fishing a couple of times and relax as much as possible. Maybe Kade and I will go explore a cave I found on Grand not that long ago.

One thing I know for sure is that the weekend will pass way too fast. Then it's back to normal — which isn't bad at all, but far less relaxing. Traditions like the Butcher family reunion help put things in their proper perspective and remind everyone what really matters.

Finally, I want to thank the families of the men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country. My father-in-law is a veteran, and we enjoy the greatest nation in the world because of the commitment and sacrifice that he and others have made. I plan on thanking him for that this weekend.

If you have served or are currently serving in the American military, thank you very much.

And if you're going out on the water this weekend, don't forget your life jacket. It's too important and too easy to take basic precautions on the water. You have too much to lose to be careless.

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