This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Decker reunion, a gathering of extended family members related to me on my Daddy’s side. For me, these gatherings always bring back a torrent of wonderful old memories. They also give me hope for the future, as I get to witness first-hand the enthusiasm and promise of a new generation, with all their gifts, aspirations and dreams for their own lives.
Since turning 70 in June, I’ve thought a great deal about the important role various family members played in shaping my life’s trajectory. Even when I was a young girl, my Daddy was already suffering from chronic heart disease, a condition which progressively worsened over the years. Daddy and Mother frequently were gone, traveling to doctors seeking treatment. During those lonely periods, my Aunt Gladys, Uncle Lester and cousin Danny would move into our house to take care of my brother and me.
Sometimes, doctors would advise Mother and Daddy to take a vacation, so that Daddy could escape his stressful job as the junior partner at McAdoo Chevrolet Company. In my book, Where the Water Meets the Sand, I describe the chaos I often felt in our home with Mother and Daddy traveling so much.
Even after Daddy passed in 1956, Mother made sure we continued to visit the Decker family to maintain that connection. She was good at keeping us in touch with both her family and his.
At the family reunion, I had the chance to spend time with my Aunt Gladys and my cousins, their children and even their grandchildren. Except for one cousin who did not attend, I am the oldest living grandchild in the group.
The visit reminded me of how the Decker family was always there for me. When I became pregnant as a teenager, the decision was made that I would live away from home, in Abilene, until my baby was born. During that period, Daddy’s only sister, Aunt Jewell, and her husband, Uncle Jack, would reach out to me and often invited me for dinner. Aunt Jewell even picked me up from my tutor during her lunch hour and brought me back to Ollie’s house, where I stayed until my baby was born.
This weekend made me feel deeply nostalgic—connected to a flood of memories, both good and bad, from years past. The reunion kindled in me a spirit of gratitude for my Aunt Jewell and Uncle Jack, who supported and loved me during a period when I was so young and troubled. I’m sad that I did not tell them enough how much I appreciated their support.
We often think of family reunions as backward-looking affairs, but they are also harbingers for the future. I am so proud of the younger generation rising in this family and thrilled to see that they are carrying on our rich legacy, on behalf of our ancestors. I wish they had personally known Robert H. and Mattie Decker. But, I’m confident that, because of the many stories that have been shared about their lives over the years, through laughter and tears, that their memories can live on.
I’m also confident that if Robert Henry and Mattie, Uncle Frank and Vida, my Daddy, Clifton Henry Decker, and mother, Dorothy, Aunt Jewell and Uncle Jack and Uncle Lester were alive, they would be immensely proud of the new, rising generation who will carry on our family’s torch. I know I am.
Family reunions and get-togethers often lead us down memory lane. This week I encourage you to journal about the last time you got together with your family. Which family stories have become legends and always take center stage? Has the dynamic in your family changed over the years, as people have aged, or are the same roles still present?