I come from a large family and get-togethers often include multiple one-liners, puns, practical jokes and laughing so hard your side aches. We have a family tradition of hosting reunions that include a big bonfire and a weeny roast. This tradition goes back oh about 40 years I would say.
These reunions are a time for catching up and settling family business as most of you are aware. It was at one of these occasions that my husband was introduced to the morbid yet often humorous aspect of the strange family he had aligned himself with.
My father was in the final months of his life after battling cancer for several years and decided he would host a weeny roast to discuss his final arrangements with us his multiple offspring. This gathering included children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren coming from 19 different cities and 7 different states.
It spanned a long weekend and included a pig roast that the boys managed (along with several cases of beer) as well as our traditional weeny roast and pie bake-off competition. Women in the Midwest take their pie seriously and my sisters and I are no exception!
We ate, laughed, joked, chased each other with water pistols, taught the kids how to fish and drive golf carts randomly through a few neighbors back yards and eventually threw my oldest brother into the pond. Trust me he deserved it! All in all a pleasurable time was had by all.
But the time eventually came when all of us children were summoned and instructed to bring our lawn chairs and weenies to the bonfire to allow Dad the chance to voice his wishes for his final requests.
To understand my father it might be best to repeat the comment he made to his hospice nurse when they were first introduced. Her name was Dixie and she was a true blessing for all of us in his last weeks. During their first introduction she asked my Dad, “Doug, what do you want to see happen here?”
Dad replied with “Dixie, ya know what the worst thing about dying is? I just don’t see a future in it!”
Humor saw my family through many difficult and trying times growing up. If you think it is hard supporting a family in today’s economy, you should try to support a family of twelve as he did. We never had much to go around but laughter was free and easy to come by in our home and frequently flowed like a raging river.
That reliance on humor continued to his final preparations. While the 15 or so of us kids and spouses sat around the fire we discussed how Dad wanted to go. He lived in Missouri, yet the family plot was in Kansas. He wanted us to bury him there yet didn’t want to have to pay the cross state fees for a deceased body.
We discussed the options available to us. Dad finally suggested that my husband Gabe and I drive over with our pick-up and load him in the back and just high-tail it to Kansas before anyone was the wiser. This was the first time we needed the CPR expertise of my sister the nurse. Gabe was fine after a few minutes.
Finally we discussed the option of cremation and rather quickly things went south from there. My brother suggested we just have another weeny roast late at night rather than pay for a cremation. Ooops there went Gabe again. 1,2,3,4,5, breathe Gabe, 1,2,3,4,5, breathe Gabe… ok he’s come around again. Thanks sis.
Once Gabe recovered we began chuckling over who would dare eat the weeny we roasted on that fire. But it was the toasted buns comment that sent Gabe into his third and final experience with getting to know my sister the nurse intimately!
After all the joking and serious decisions were finally made we all grudgingly, and sadly left to go our separate ways, until the time came to return for the last few precious days we spent with my Dad. On the trip home to Texas from that reunion my husband croaked out that my family was just weird! He did eventually come to love them but from that time on refused to ever eat a hotdog again.
Dad made it to the family plot in Kansas without Gabe’s driving skills being required by the way and rests beside his family dating back more generations than I was able to count. Thanks for giving me my sense of humor Dad, you are missed.