This is DeVar. I know him as "Grandpa Weekes".
My mom has five siblings; three brothers and two sisters. She is the youngest. Each of her siblings have anywhere from two to seven children of their own. If I count correctly, I'm pretty sure I have about 27 first cousins, and we are all having kids of our own now... some of their kids are married and starting their own families soon also!
In other words, I have a LARGE family on my mom's side.
Now, I have to say, regardless of how many of us there are, my grandparents have great relationships with all of us! I love them dearly and I am so grateful for the chance that I have had to grow so close to them. My relationship with my own dad has not been very stable and I feel that I have always shared a close bond with my grandpa, but especially close over the last six or seven years, just because of circumstances that my family has gone through. It helps that I moved to Rexburg and lived just a few miles from them... While I was going to BYU-Idaho, I would make regular visits to my grandparents' place!
Well, last weekend, we all gathered in my grandpa's horse pasture for a bit of a family reunion. It was very casual and fun, and I loved seeing everyone together again. The part that I loved most, though, took place on Saturday night.
We all had dutch oven dinner together, along with all the fixings! After we ate, we started the fire and gathered together to listen to some of the talent that our family has to offer. My mom and uncle Rick write cowboy poetry, so a few poems were read. Andrew brought his guitar and played a few tunes. I sang some old cowboy songs, and a couple of my cousins (Jenna and Kylee) sang as well. My uncle, Rod, recorded the whole meeting so we can listen to it later. We even played an old tune that my great grandma Weekes had recorded on an old vinyl which has since been copied to a compact disk! I loved it!
We ended the night by asking questions about my Grandparents' early lives. I loved looking around at all of the great-grand-kids sitting on the grass, completely lost in my grandparents' words! I was drawn into the stories as well, and loved hearing what they spoke about. My grandpa talked about the Temple and why he was so grateful that he chose to be sealed to my grandma there. He also talked about my great-grandpa-Weekes, who died before I was born. He spoke of how his dad had never wanted to preach, but rather live his life so that those he came in contact with always knew what he believed through his works. Grandpa DeVar says he has always hoped to live like that, and I know he has. What a great example! My grandma, Gwen, told about how her parents had never gone to church with she and her siblings until she was in her teenage years. I was surprised by this because my great grandma, Emma, has always been very active in church activities throughout my life until she died three years ago in November! I loved hearing my grandma talk about how she gained her testimony, especially because I know how challenging that is when you feel that your parents don't believe the same thing as you, or support what you are doing with your life. I had never known that I had this in common with my grandmother!
We ended the night with me asking how they first felt when the Teton Dam broke and the flood went through. My grandparents house was the only one left standing in their area. For whatever reason, a bridge had broken free and floated until it became lodged between a cluster of trees near their home in Sugar-Salem (which took the brunt of the flood water). That bridge stopped the force of the water enough to keep their house on its foundation. They had been at a rodeo in Salmon with most of their kids, but my uncle, Rod, was left at home as he was just old enough that he was in the process of moving out and getting a place of his own. He told his part of the story, which I had never heard. It was amazing how close we already are as a large family, but I really feel that this night was a defining moment for us all. There were many wet eyes in the group that night, and I know we all grew closer together. The spirit of our family was so strong and the love I felt was indescribable!
I haven't had the healthiest of relationships with my dad's family for multiple reasons, but I still know that family is the most important organization in this life, and we were meant to learn from each other here. I am so grateful for my family and I hope that my broken relationships will one day mend. In the meantime, I will hold on to the love I have for ALL of my family members and try to learn from the example of my beloved Grandpa Weekes - to let them know that I love them and what I believe through the way I live my life. If you are struggling with family relationships, please don't despair. I promise all will be well someday. Just remember to love them and to love yourself so that your life may be lived in joy; even through the hard times. I know that you can find happiness, even when it feels like your world is falling apart around you. Work to build relationships in this life, rather than break them. After all, this is why we were sent here... to learn to love!