Reunion – Epilogue: Promises were made

Six weeks – and seven posts – after the family reunion, I’ve had time to reflect on what happened that weekend.

BJ:  He’s a 27-year-old working man, taking on the responsibility of a family while still having a lot of “boy” in him.  Raised by a couple of complete nutters – with some crazy siblings for added fun.  He also is pretty heavily medicated for ADHD.  Not always the brightest bulb, but he can work a miracle “cypherin'” the amount of wood planks required to repair a deck.  Last weekend, he took third place at the county fair with his demolition derby car, and is piecing it back together to enter another contest in a few weeks.

He’s done the best he could with what he’s got.

DQ:  Manipulative?  Certainly.  She’s raised it to an art form, always being able to find the angle that maximizes personal gain.  Bad at financial math?  Life-long history of spending money she doesn’t have.  Poor choices of partners?  At least the first few…  Does she take care of Mom?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Perhaps not the way i would want to be cared for, but Mom prefers this to other options.  She may have limitations when it comes to making good decisions in everyday life, but when the shit hits the fan, she can get the job done with ruthless efficiency.  When Dad was dying, she was my first call for help with the ugly shit.

She’s done the best she could with what she’s got.

TK:  Coming from a wealthy family, she had every opportunity to excel – and she has.  Retired from the world of professional golf, she is now gainfully employed within the same community, and works her ass off at her job.  She plays just as hard, often as captain on her boat — generously taking family and friends on deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and diving excursions.  Her demon was falling madly in love with my sister – and it’s been one of the hardest challenges in her life.  Having no experience with mental illness, she’s had to do some reading to compliment her ‘on the job training’.  Has her own therapist now, too.  But she’s willing to try to stay in for the long-haul, and…

She’s doing the best she could with what she’s got.

Hurricane T:  Bipolar disorder, to a degree that would hospitalize many, she is a tenured professor at a large university.  She’s invested well, and worked the real estate market to great advantage – even earning a Real Estate license just to make sure she understood the innerds of the business.  When her body chemistry goes out of whack, she’s dragged the family through some bizarre territory – from cults to gut-wrenching emotional drama.  This has fueled a gigantic rift within the family, as she called “bullshit” on Mom’s living arrangements early and often… and loudly.  She’s had bad luck with partners until recently.  Oh, and she can be funny as hell.

She’s done the best she could with what she’s got.

Mom:  My earliest memories of my Mom involve yelling.  She used to scare the kids in the neighborhood because she was the ‘mean mom’.  If she wrote her life story she said she’d call it “Bitter the Apple“.  But she also tried her damnedest to help us with school projects, volunteered for classroom parties, and hauled our adolescent asses to the skating rink every Friday night.  She has a good heart, and would buy us far too many gifts at Christmas as a way of showing her love – also making up for all of the things she didn’t get as a poor kid.  A classic hoarder from that, too.  She was a ruthless caretaker for Dad, keeping all of his lab work and medical reports in a folder to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.  When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, the prognosis was horrible – and yet she helped keep him alive for another 3 1/2 years.

She’s done the best she could with what she’s got.

daisyfae:  Lumpy, middle-aged, emotionally hardened woman, trying to make good on a death-bed promise to her father.  “You’re it.  You’re ‘Number One Son’.  You need to look out for them…”  Through that reunion weekend, with a good bit of effort and a well-timed snake attack, the familial rift has been patched – at least for now.  Mom talked to Hurricane T – and reassured her that she is ok with her arrangements, even if the house is never finished.  i came to appreciate who DQ and BJ really are – and realized that i should give a bit more slack.  Mom will always be bitter and broken – and the more her body hurts, the crabbier she’s going to be.  Did daisyfae keep that promise to her father?

She’s done the best she could, with what she’s got…

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Reunion – Part VII: Eavesdropping

Our final night in Tennessee.  DQ and her troupe had moved into the loft of our cabin.  Mom was already snoring away in the downstairs bedroom. i was sacked out on the sofa.  It had been a rather eventful weekend, and i had a lot of shit to munch over inside my head.  Despite being very tired, i couldn’t sleep.

i didn’t want to eavesdrop.  In fact, i put a pillow over my head at one point to try to block out the sound of the voices drifting down from the upstairs loft.  DQ, BJ and the little critter, DQ, III were camped in the double bed, while DQ, III and Doogie had settled on the twin bed and trundle-bed.  It was almost midnight, and the four-year old was asleep right away.  It was close quarters up there for the five of them.  They were trying to keep their voices down, but the acoustics of the cabin made it impossible for me to stop listening.

At first?  They were horsing around —  BJ giving Doogie grief for ripping a fart, while the rest of them giggled.  DQ complaining that BJ had stolen the sheets.  Some comments i couldn’t hear, followed by more shushed giggles.  They were camping.  This is just what you do in close quarters.

It took a turn for the more serious.  DQ explaining to her seventeen year old daughter that she needed to tone down her posts on facebook.

DQ:  I know you’re crazy about JT, but some of the things you post…  It’s too much!  Do you want to be one of those girls? Everyone can see it.

DQ, III:  It’s not that bad!  I’ve seen a lot worse stuff on facebook.

DQ:  Just because your friends post TMI doesn’t make it right!

BJ:  Tweetering?  Is that what it’s called?  You gotta tweeter that you love him or else he won’t know?  You’re just making sure everyone else knows!

DQ:  We took away your phone and internet before, and if you keep posting that “I love you, Baby-Boy” crap, we can take it away again.

Parenting.  Honest-to-God parenting.  And a family.  A family that enjoys being together.

Maybe not my approach to parenting – and maybe not my priorities.  But they are engaged.  Tracking.  Paying attention.  Being adults.

When we were all packing up after breakfast at the Gathering Cabin, we were sorting out shared costs for the weekend.  i paid for the three cabins in advance.  Once I had the final body count, i did a straight calculation to figure out what folks would need to contribute — and it worked out to $40 per adult per night stayed, with no charge for the kids.  Since the younger cousins (DQ’s generation) tend to have less disposable income, i offered them all a bit of a discount.

DQ said she’d brought cash, and was prepared to pay for Doogie, too.  i told her Doogie was covered – the least i could do for having made a rather serious misjudgment.  Rather than take the discounted rate, she paid me in full.

pic found here

Reunion – Part VI: Mea Culpa

As i’ve mentioned, getting the final body count for the reunion proved to be a massive headache – i didn’t have the final number until the day of arrival.  Needless to say that the following conversation with my Mom the week before didn’t bring me joy.

Mom:  DQ and BJ are planning to bring their friend, Doogie.  Is there going to be room for him?

daisyfae:  WHAT?!?!?  Who the fuck is Doogie?  When did they plan to tell me this?

Mom:  DQ said he’d be fine sleeping on a couch somewhere.  He’s going to be bringing the Razors* down so they can go off-roading while they’re in Tennessee.

daisyfae:  Well, he better bring a damn tent and sleeping bag, too.  i have no idea where to put him!  That’s going to be their problem.

Mom:  He said he’d be fine with that.

daisyfae:  Does Doogie have a J. O. B.?  So he can P. A. Y.?

i was a little stressed out…

Upon arrival, i let DQ know that it was up to her to figure out where to put him, while making sure that all of the cousins had suitable places to sleep. i met Doogie as they moved into their cabin.  Not the tattooed, toothless bubby i was expecting.  Mid-sixties.  Balding.  Quiet.

When we got in the car to drive back to our cabin, i asked Mom about him.

daisyfae:  How did BJ hook up with Doogie?

Mom:  He lived next door to BJ’s parents.  BJ helped him with projects around the house as a teenager.  Doogie’s wife died last year. Ovarian cancer.  It came on pretty quick and she died within a few months. He’s been helping BJ with work on my house ever since.  Needs something to keep him busy I guess…

daisyfae:

Mom:  Oh, and he takes care of his mother-in-law.  She’s got to be in her 90’s.  She was living with them before his wife died.  He’s a real sweet man.  Looks after me, too.  The kids tease us.  They say he’s my boyfriend, because he’s always offering me his arm when he helps me in and out of the car.

At this point, i was feelin’ like a right shitheel.

During the weekend, he tried to stay out of the way – it was awkward for him since it wasn’t his family.  He was literally along for the ride.  But he was looking out for Mom – helping her along the slanted gravel path to the door of the cabin.  He stepped up to be chief photographer when it was time to take group photos with a million cameras.

To deal with sleeping arrangements on Sunday night, we had to make an adjustment.  Since Hurricane T and TK had vacated the loft in NATO HQ, we moved BJ, DQ, DQ, Jr., DQ, III and Doogie in to our cabin.  There was a double bed, and two twin beds up there — i had already claimed the sofa downstairs.

If you’ve ever spent any time outdoors, you know that the best way to collect mosquitoes around your head while trying to sleep at night is to leave a light on.  To minimize the bloodsuckers inside the cabin at night, i had developed an entry protocol – turn off the porch and interior lights BEFORE entering.  A few bugs would get in, but not an unmanageable swarm.  Instructing DQ’s clan in the entry procedures, they managed to unload all of their gear from the car with a minimum of additional multi-legged livestock joining the party.

As they were all getting settled in for the night, Doogie grabbed the fly swatter and proceeded to eradicate nearly every critter in the cabin before he went on to bed.  Turns out, Doogie hates bugs.  Especially spiders.

Not a bad fella at all…

This critter spent the weekend on the front porch of the Gathering Cabin.  Right by the door.  He ate moths, but rarely moved.  We let him live…

*A Razor is an off-road vehicle.  Nice description found here.  They like to run through the mud in these…

Reunion – Part V: Bipolarity

The hardest part of organizing the reunion was getting a headcount – there could be as many as fifty attendees.  It was impossible to pin it down until the final weeks.

Since she’d have to fly into Knoxville to attend, Hurricane T was one of the last to confirm.  Her partner, TK, travels a lot on business, so it wasn’t clear that she’d be able to attend even if Hurricane T decided to go.  Their concerns about making an appearance at a family reunion as an openly gay couple were sitting squarely on top of their decision as well.  She was also waiting to see if DQ and her clan would be there.

DQ, for her part, was waiting to see if any of the cousins of her generation would be attending.  And also waiting to see if Hurricane T would be there — she was willing to defer to Hurricane T if that would allow Mom to have a chance to see her for the first time in two years.Yep.  Another “Trailer Park Mexican Standoff”.

Hurricane T and DQ decided to attend almost simultaneously – and i booked the third cabin shortly thereafter.

Despite her concerns about showing up as a lesbitarian amongst family of indeterminate tolerance, TK decided she had to be there — because Hurricane T needed her.

They’ve been together for about five years.  And been through a lot.  Last year, they did a “soft product rollout” as a couple when they purchased a home together.  It was a rough year – as the renovations to the new place dragged on and on, Hurricane T had a significant bipolar meltdown.  It was gruesome, but TK stayed.

i was blown away by her degree of commitment.  My sister is an extraordinary woman – managing a degree of bipolar disorder that would have most people on full-time disability.  She is not easy to live with, let alone love unconditionally.

And yet TK is there…

On Saturday morning – after the “snake/hospital” incident – i rolled off the sofa around 9:30 am.  Mom was still sleeping in the bedroom, and TK had gone out for a run.  Hurricane T had just gotten up, and was attempting to make coffee as quietly as possible in the kitchen to let me sleep in a little longer.

We filled our mugs.  She asked how BJ was doing.

daisyfae:  It was scary, he was in a good bit of pain, but he’s going to be ok.

Hurricane T:  Damn!  How bizarre!  We weren’t sure what happened – Mom came back and said something about him getting bit by a snake, but she didn’t know what was going on, either.

daisyfae:  Wasn’t his fault.  Filed under “Shit Happens!”

Hurricane T:  How did I do last night?  Did I behave?

daisyfae:  No.  You got pretty drunk and said things in front of DQ that were out of line.

Hurricane T:  SHIT!  I was trying.  But I was really nervous, man!  I haven’t seen these people in decades, and I can’t stand being around DQ.

Just as TK came back from her run, i went through what had happened.  TK backed me up, saying Hurricane T had been rude.

Hurricane T:  I’m sorry.  Should I do something? What can I do to fix this?

daisyfae:  Let it bounce.  And lose the drinking — for the rest of the weekend, we only drink HERE.  This is the bar.  No need to be nervous — everyone’s cool.  Relax and hang out…

She headed for the shower.  TK and i grabbed coffee and went outside to enjoy the rocking chairs and cool morning air.

TK:  Now that T is done with the high-stress job, and the renovations on the house are complete?  She’s bored!  And driving me CRAZY!

daisyfae:  She’s been used to being busy.  Has to be a tough transition for both of you.

TK:  I work from home, and she CONSTANTLY follows me around, wanting an opinion on this or that, or looking for something to do.  I tell you – we’ve been through a lot, but I don’t know if I can take this!

daisyfae:  Is she exercising?  Maybe train her up for another half-marathon?  Find a new hobby?

TK:  She’s going to get SCUBA certified.  My nephew is an instructor, and she can do it in our pool.  And golf lessons.  I need to get her hooked up with a teacher.

Best of times.  Worst of times.

Is it harder to stick around when life is good?

Reunion – Part IV: Intermission

For the first reunion, Cousin S handled logistics.  We rented two large cabins, in an area that was easily reached by probable attendees.  It was beautiful, but there wasn’t much to do there, other than visit together at the cabins.  And eat.

This time, we agreed that having some outdoor activity options would be nice – maybe rafting, hiking or horseback riding.  Since i volunteered to organize this one, i selected the cabins based on a nearby river run and riding stables.

Even with the events Friday night, and three hours sleep, i wanted to press on with the trail ride on Saturday afternoon.  BJ had been admitted to UT Med Center, DQ and her crew were there.  He was going to be fine – probably released in time for dinner. The rest of us couldn’t really do much to help, so there was no reason to cancel our plans.

i’d worked all arrangements for the ride by e-mail and phone.  Given the sporadic mobile phone service at the cabins, it was hard getting in touch with the owner of the stable.  Even so, by 11:00 am Saturday, i’d reached Larry, the stable owner – he knew how many horses to saddle, and told me when to show up.  He was absolutely delightful, and said he’d be happy to work a custom trail ride to meet our needs.

There would only be five riders.  Hurricane T, partner TK, Cousin L, Cousin S and me.  We piled into TK’s rental car – giving my poor Wienermobile a day off – and headed to the stables.

We arrived a few minutes early to find Landon, Larry’s son, getting our Tennessee Walkers into their leathers.  He apologized that his dad couldn’t be there to meet us.  “He’s been down sick all day with a stomach flu.  Sends his regards, and hopes y’all enjoy the ride today.”

Landon wanted to get a better idea of our riding experience to best match us up with the horses.  Cousin L – who harbours a self-described folly regarding the old television show “Bonanza” – went straight for the Pinto.  Although she hasn’t had much experience on horseback, there was no doubt that was going to be her ride.

Cousin S had not been on a horse for 45 years.  She was assigned to one of the steadiest mounts.  TK is an athlete, from a wealthy family. She had “Western” and “English” riding lessons as a child, and is pretty fearless.  She was given one of the more spirited horses.

When asked about her riding experience, my sister, Hurricane T, said “Didn’t we ride horses and shit in Girl Scouts?  I’ve done trail rides.  So yeah, I guess I’ve got experience.”  She got one of the older horses.

Before leaving, i asked Landon about filling out paperwork, paying, or signing liability forms.

Landon:  We could do that if you really want to, but most people don’t bother.  And y’all can pay when you get back.

We shook hands, and i climbed a stepladder to mount a gigantic horse!  And we were off…

Landon led us out of the hot sun, into the cool shade of the trees.  i rode ‘sweep’.  Having been the organizer of the reunion, i felt responsible for safety.  Mostly, i was worried about my 65-year-old Cousin S, who looked pretty unsteady on top of that big damn horse.

By the time we were 30 minutes onto the trail, i started to relax.  Well… Not exactly “relax”. The pucker factor was down.  i was operating on three hours sleep.  But my horse was pretty laid back and had walked the trails a hundred times.  It didn’t require a lot of concentration…

Watching Hurricane T riding in front of me.  Enjoying herself.  Relaxed.  Hearing TK whooping and hollering ahead of her as we got to a stream crossing.  Smiles from Cousins S and L as we stopped at the halfway point to rest our horses. Landon checked our gear to make sure no one was going to slide off on the uphill trail ahead of us.

Halfway through the weekend.  We were out playing.  Not the same sort of play we’d done as children, but playing nonetheless.

For Cousin S?  A chance to try a new adventure!  i’d asked her if she wanted to shorten the ride from the planned two hours and she said “Absolutely not!”  For Cousin L?  Indulging her folly for a few hours.  For Hurricane T and TK?  Activity – they are pretty ‘kinetic’, and for them ‘doing’ is more comfortable than ‘being’.

For me?  i’d gained an appreciation for the way they do business in this part of the world.  Focus on customer service, even when dealing with a stomach bug.  A handshake for a contract.

And some much-needed equine respite care.

Reunion – Part III: Ambulance Chasing

Our cabins were in the wilderness of northern Tennessee, accessible by gravel roads.  It was about 20 minutes to the nearest town – which was a pretty small town.  We were in the proverbial boonies with a fairly urgent medical situation.

Jumped in my car, BJ loaded up, and we were off to town.  It was around 10:30pm.  We had absolutely no idea what we would find when we got there.

i asked him to plug in my GPS to see if he could get it to bring up ’emergency medical facilities’.  That led us to the county hospital.  Both of us were pretty relieved to see the sign out front for “Emergency”.  That relief vaporized the instant we saw this:

Ceased Operations?  Call 911?  Fuck.

i called 911, and was instructed to “wait right there for the squad to arrive” – and they did within two minutes.  They did triage, as i showed them the pic of the snake on the iPad.  They needed to transport him to the larger regional hospital, another 30 miles away.

Medic [sizing up me – and my ride]:  Can you follow the ambulance?

daisyfae [looking with mild trepidation at 2005 4-cylinder Oscar Mayer Wienermobile]: Absolutely!  Let’s go!

Medic:  I’m going to call ahead to make sure they have the anti-venom on hand.  Stay with us!

Traffic through town at night was light.  We got on the main road toward the interstate.  The ambulance was chewing up pavement, through serious hills and twisties at about 80 mph. On the bigger hills i turned off the air conditioner to avoid compressor drag on the engine.  Otherwise, they’d have shaken me. The Wienermobile held up.

Bootlegged a text to Studley – “Call if you’re awake”.  He called just as my phone battery showed signs of dying.  Gave him the update, mentioned that BJ was uninsured and in need of treatment. He started to work the internet get me information.

Studley [via text]:  Definitely needs emergency care – you made a good call.

Studley [via text]:  Conflicting information.  Between $300 – $1,000 / vial of anti-venom.

Studley [via text]:  Fuck!  Hide your credit card – multiple vials needed.  Can be up to $15,000 to treat!

We were now doing 95 mph down the interstate, but at least i could leave the air conditioner on, since there were fewer hills.  As we passed the exits for the regional medical center, i was pretty sure that we were going straight into Knoxville, to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  According to my GPS – another 30 miles away.

Back at the cabins there was limited mobile phone service.  Of course the clan was anxious for updates.  As i was driving white-knuckled behind a screaming ambulance (it had started to rain, by the way), my phone rang.  It was Mom.  Rather than have her continue to call, i answered…

daisyfae: i’m doing 95 miles an hour behind an ambulance.  Not a good time to talk.  Will call you when i stop. [click]

As we approached the University Hospital, a MedEvac helicopter was landing on the helipad.  It was around 11:30pm. As i walked to the Emergency Room, it struck me that we’d covered about 80 miles in less than an hour…

Checked in at the Emergency desk.  It wasn’t long before they called me back to BJs room.  He was already hooked up to an intravenous line, blood pressure cuff on, and sporting a fairly seriously swollen foot.

He’d been in touch with DQ by text from the ambulance, and was working hard to convince her to stay at the cabin.  i sent her texts assuring her i’d stay as long as needed, and for her to get some sleep.

Trauma doc said “This is the eighth snakebite this week – between the heat and the dry conditions, they’re on the move!  But this one doesn’t look that bad…”.  Needed to do blood work to get an idea of how much venom had been injected – over-treating it can be as bad as getting bitten.  They were thorough and cautious.

At the first opportunity, BJ took off the cuff and hopped out of bed.

BJ:  I was trying to take a leak by the car when I got bit – I never DID get to pee!

He availed himself of the in-room facilities and i reminded him to find a jar, since the doc said they wanted a urine sample as well as blood.  By the time he hopped back in the bed, he was in obvious pain.

Flagged down the nurse, and asked him for pain meds.  BJ had refused them when he first arrived because it wasn’t hurting too badly.  The swelling seemed to be getting a little worse.

We sat and yakked to kill time, as the lab analyzed the body fluids.  He was worried about DQ racing off in the dark.  He didn’t want the kids to worry.  Really wanted to get back to the cabins as soon as possible so he could enjoy the rest of the weekend.

He asked if i’d seen the MedEvac helicopter that was coming in when we arrived.

BJ:  The guy driving the ambulance had a friend up there.  They were racing to see who got in first!  We beat ’em by six minutes!

daisyfae:  Ummm… So maybe i can hang a ‘first place’ medal on my dead transmission?

He was glad he was the one who got bit.  Not one of the kids.  Not Mom.

Just about everyone on the staff was amazed that he didn’t kill the snake.  We had a picture for identification.  Apparently that emergency room sees a LOT of dead snakes when there are bites.  The nurse told us that one guy even came in with a live one in the pocket of his cargo pants.

BJ:  Not sure what the point of killing it would have been.  It already bit me.  It’s not like I can eat it or anything.

The first dose of anti-venom was administered at 2:30am.  He was hurting.  Never really complained.  They admitted him at 4:00am, fairly heavily medicated by then, and ready to sleep.  As the nurse got him settled, i told him i was heading back.

Back at the cabin around 6:30am, i sent a text to DQ telling her that things were going to be fine, that i was going to sleep a bit, and to text me when she woke up.  TK got up as i was settling onto the sofa to bag some sleep, and asked how he was doing.

daisyfae:  He’s fine.  He’s ok.  Yeah.  He really is…

Reunion – Part II: Venom

We arrived at the main ‘gathering’ cabin, where six of my cousins were staying. Many arms came to hug Mom, and help her down the walkway.

Mom settled amongst a pod of cousins on the generous front porch.  Hurricane T had taken a few tentative steps toward the group, but Cousin L did not wait.  Meeting her at the edge of the porch, she wrapped her arms around T, crushing 30 years in seconds.

Cousin L took T over to her brother, P.  More hugs.  P introduced his wife, P, and as they were all three wearing collegiate sports shirts, the conversation took off.

Meanwhile, TK had parked the car, and come down the walkway, standing next to me.  i was about to start introductions and she said “Wait.  Not yet.  Let it happen…”

Cousin L brought the “happen”.  Throwing her arms around TK she said “It is SO good to meet you!  I’ve heard so much about you, and enjoy your pictures on Facebook!  Welcome to the family!”

Waterworks on my part.  TK was a little choked up, too, but kept her composure.  Cousin L brought her to Cousin S, who provided an equally warm welcome to the clan.

Catching T’s eye across the porch, she was also on the verge of losing it.  We were saved by a call to dinner – which meant i needed to escort Mom inside, lest she miss the chance to lead the Buffet Conga Line.

Realizing that the extended family would be taking care of T and TK, i went to the kitchen to sort logistics.  DQ and her clan were there, hanging out and relaxing.

Flying here and there, i tracked arrival times of other family, explained cabin layout, set up the WiFi access code for people who needed it – basically worked the ‘hive’.  i went upstairs to check on bed linens and passed T and DQ at the bottom of the stairs.

Hurricane T:  I really do appreciate all you do for Mom – taking her to doctors appointments is a full-time job…

Continued upstairs – in shock!  How can this be happening?  Was i overly worried about this?

Scooted out the front door a few minutes later to get something from the car, past T and Cousin L, i found DQ on the front porch.  In tears.

daisyfae: What happened?

DQ:  What have I done to her?  Why does she hate me? Is she drunk already?

daisyfae:  She was drinking before we got here, so she’s probably getting lit.  There’s rum in her sippy cup…

DQ:  I’m sitting on the sofa, right in front of her.  She starts telling Cousin L that she’s got a huge problem with Mom’s living situation and everything “going on there”, but that she’s put her concerns aside to come here and be with the family.

daisyfae:  Shit.  It was going well…

DQ:  I know!  She was so nice to me!  What did I DO?!?

daisyfae:  Relax.  Cousin L knows that there is a problem with T.  She knows all you do to take care of Mom.  She is not going to judge you based on what T says… i’ll go shut it down.

Stepped back inside, but the conversation with Hurricane T and Cousin L had already shifted to work-related talk.  DQ and her clan headed out  to their cabin for a break.  i found TK and she went to pinch off Hurricane T for the night, and get her back to our cabin.

By late evening, the dust had settled. Cousin L found me and said “I think I have a better understanding of your challenges…” and i thanked her for the re-direct.  She said she’d be sure to say a few supportive words to DQ at the right time.

Sitting in the living room with DQ, i listened again to her frustration.  Thanked her for sucking it up and avoiding “escalation of hostilities”.

Her husband, BJ, poked his head in the door of the cabin.

BJ:  Hey, can one of you come out here and get a picture of this snake?

DQ and i grabbed cameras and went out to the gravel driveway.

BJ:  Just thought it might be a good idea to see what just bit me on the toe…

We got a couple of blurry pictures as the snake slithered into the undergrowth from the driveway.  We were barefoot, but being very careful to watch our step!  DQ finally got a close-up of the snake, including the head.

Hit the WiFi with my iPad. Confirmed what i’d already suspected.  Copperhead.   He needed medical attention.  Fast…

Reunion – Part I: NATO Peacekeeping

Knowing that the weekend was fraught with potential hostilities, incendiary devices and decades of unresolved conflict, i knew i would need to hit it early and hit it hard.  Rules of Engagement would be necessary for all of my clan, as we descended upon a lovely wilderness area in Tennessee for our second extended family reunion weekend.

Three rental cabins to assure lodgings for all, with assigned lodging to accomplish the following objectives:

– Protection of Civilians:  Keeping my cousins clear of hostilities that might erupt between my niece, DQ and her family, and my sister, Hurricane T.  Warring for the past decade, i needed to assure minimal collateral damage.

– Enjoyment for Cousins:  Group the attendees together in an efficient way, taking advantage of having a pod of third and fourth generation “young ‘uns” at the cabins.  Keep the small kids together for a chance to bond.  Keep the small kids away from adults who are annoyed by small kids.

– Retreat Positions for Warring Factions:  Keep Hurricane T and DQ physically separated.  Give DQ time away from her role as Mom’s primary caregiver. Provide ample time for Hurricane T to visit with Mom since it’s been two years since they’ve been in the same state.

Given the mission/objective challenges, i wanted to be ‘first in’ to gain full situational awareness.  Visiting each cabin, i laid in provisions as i checked out facilities.

Basic Provisions i brought to HQ

DQ and her clan would be staying at the largest cabin, which would be filled with her generation of cousins, and their young children.  Swinging by that cabin, after unloading my gear in my cabin, i found their crew arriving and starting to get settled in.

daisyfae: Let’s do the indoctrination briefing now, before the others arrive.  For this weekend, i am your NATO Peacekeeping Force Commander.  Should you run into any problems with ANYTHING, bring it to me first.  There are coalition forces in attendance – Cousin S and Cousin L are apprised of the challenges we may encounter with Hurricane T, know that there have been hostilities in the past, and are sympathetic to your position.  You can rely on them as needed for support.

i delivered the speech with a degree of farcical melodrama – but we all knew the underlying truth of it. Mom was on board as well, sharing some concerns, and encouraging DQ to keep her cool if possible.  i reminded Mom of her role – “You’re part of the comms team, Momma!  Be direct!  Be consistent!  Let Hurricane T know your position on things!”  We were a little less puckered afterwards, and even managed a few nervous laughs.

i took Mom and her gear back with me to Headquarters – the cabin we’d be sharing with Hurricane T and her partner, TK.  They’d sent a text saying they’d found a liquor store near the airport, and would be arriving at the cabins within the hour.

And they did…

Provisions AFTER the arrival of the reinforcements…

Hurricane T hadn’t seen Mom in two years, as she’s refused to visit her in the current trailer park situation.  Giving them time to get gear unloaded into the loft of the cabin, and visit with Mom a bit, i then launched into their version of the NATO indoctrination briefing.

daisyfae:  As i have told the other faction, i am to be your NATO Peacekeeper for the weekend.  If you encounter resistance, frustration, or behavior that mystifies you in any manner, please bring your concerns to me directly for interpretation and resolution.  Our goal is for all to have an enjoyable weekend, and that there are no fatalities…

Following the same farcical delivery as i had for DQ and her clan, i laid out the same essential message.  For Hurricane T, and TK, however, there were added minefields that had to be addressed.

daisyfae:  For full situational awareness, i want to give you a short bio on each of your extended cousins.  They are delightful human beings!  They may seem culturally different at first, and this may be frightening, but with a little preparation, i believe there will be no issues.

Hurricane T:  Not worried about the cousins.  We’re in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee!  They don’t like gays here?  Are we going to get strung up by our thumbs or something?

daisyfae:  Statistically speaking, you were in more danger driving to the airport in Miami than you are here!  Relax!  The cultural differences within the clan may be initially disarming!  They are mostly non-drinkers, so…

Hurricane T:  WHAT?!?!

daisyfae:  Let me finish — non-drinkers, but non-judgmental!  That said, we are all in this cabin for a reason [points to ‘provisions’ counter in kitchen].  Let’s try to contain the drinking to our quarters.  Just easier that way.  Keep it discreet.  Low key.

As TK went to mix up a fresh round of drinks, i continued to talk to them about ‘common ground’.

daisyfae:  Your cousin, L?  She’s an amazing woman. She’s PR director for the small town school district, a columnist for the local paper, and quite an adventurer.  Cousin P, and his wife, P?  RABID collegiate sports fans!  You guys will be able to go on endlessly about the strengths of the South East Conference, down to details of recruiting prospects for next year.  Cousin S?  She’s pretty brilliant and adventurous in her own way…  And don’t let these sweet western Kentucky accents throw you off.  They are all very intelligent, very astute, and genuinely good folks.  Relax and get to know them a bit!

Briefing concluded:  Friday, 5:00pm local time.  We loaded up the car and headed for the main cabin to begin the reunion…