Friday 30 September 2022
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Straight No Chaser: Families Need To Do Better

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston


gloria newAs I prepare to head to Hampton Virginia, to bury my bother Gary’s wife, my sister-in-law, Margaret Winston, I can’t help but think of how the promises we make to ourselves to visit, and to spend time with relatives, catches up to us in the form of regret.

While mentally preparing for the upcoming funeral, I had been advised by a first cousin in North Carolina, Linda Wilkerson, of another family member’s death in Virginia, which happened in the same week.

Another first cousin was going to bury her husband before I could make it to Virginia, unfortunately.

The sad thing is, as close as my cousin Michelle (Darlene Hunt Archer) and I seemed to have been when she was younger, I’d only met her husband, Dr. Phillip Wesley Archer, once, and they had been married for at least 30 years, I believe.

There’s something wrong about the connection and communication being lost between relatives.

There’s also something wrong with the fact that my communication with my sister-in-law was reduced to the telephone when she was no longer able to travel.

I think something is more than wrong with families who are scattered throughout a variety of locations, much like mine is, and with those who do not make a concerted effort to meet face to face, unless it is for a funeral or wedding.

Just two weeks ago, I buried another sister-in-law, Brenda Washington, the sister of Wallace Taggart Sr.

Even though I am no longer married to her brother, she was still my son’s auntie, so we still considered each other kinfolk.

And, any children born to my ex’s siblings, I still consider nieces and nephews.

I often speak of how the elders in most families always made a point of having some kind of reunion, or at the very least, a family picnic, annually, that allowed us, as kinfolk, to get to know one another.

I have had cousins in my family who dated in college, and, in some cases, married one another because they did not know they had been related.

Pulling off a family reunion takes work, however it needs to happen in all families.

Too many cousins, aunts, uncles, and other kinfolk may have relatives they’ll never meet, or spend time with.

There is something wrong about our lives becoming so busy, that we may miss out on the relationships which are more than important, or should be.

Facebook has helped me to personally reconnect with family members, but it is not the same as being in their presence, or getting to know them.

When I went to Cleveland to bury my last aunt on planet earth, Lydia Ann Winston Harden, I was more than saddened to realize her three grandchildren had not been in my presence since 2001, when they’d attended the last Winston, Latimer, and Butler Family Reunion I hosted in Alabama.

And, now, they’re all grown, sophisticated young ladies with careers of their own.

I also have family in California, Alabama, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC, New Jersey, New York, and places I may not even be aware of, because I have so many cousins serving in the military, as well.

I will see many of them this week, at the funeral.

We will hug, shake hands, kiss, and make promises to stay in touch, for sure.

But, what will happen is, we’ll go back to our respective homes, and not communicate again, until the next crisis or sad event takes place in the family.

This may not be the case in all families, but it is in far too many.

I believe we can all do better. We may miss out on much, by not being in touch with one another.

My father, James W. Winston Sr.’s idea of a vacation was to always visit the family.

My parents seemed to perfectly balance the time we spent with their families.

My mom, Eliza Wilma Winston, had been raised in Warrenton, NC, and we spent as much time there as we had with my grandparents, aunts and uncles, in Alabama, where my dad had been raised.

However, what is really sad to me is the number of cousins, nieces, nephews, and others that live right here in River City that I don’t ever see.

They don’t call, visit, or write until there is a dire need.

We need to fix that, before we are all sitting somewhere talking about if I could’ve, I would’ve, and should’ve.

My great uncle, Henry Greenlea, had been married to my grandmother Maggie Butler Winston’s sister, Effie.

He left this dimension long ago, but was the best who ever did it in making sure the family got together at least once a year. He had a farm on Lyell Rd. that had apple, cherry and pear orchards along with many farm animals.

He and his family lived on Glide St., in the winter, and in the summer they would move into the farm house.

And, every year, around the Fourth of July, Uncle Henry’s farm was where the family would come together.

I still remember the homemade ice cream.

That had always been my favorite thing to partake in.

When Uncle Henry passed, my cousin Millard Latimer Jr., a.k.a. Sonny, also made an effort to bring the family poolside, with lots of food.

The annual picnic at his and Monique’s house became a tradition of family fun, good food, and poker. I miss those good ole’ days.

These days, I’ve often found myself trying to encourage the younger generation to get on board, and to plan family reunions, or some kind of get-togethers, so that they can get to know whose shoulders they stand on in our family, by becoming familiar with their family history.

I hate to think how easy it may be to walk past a family member, and not even realize you are related.

Collectively, we need to re-prioritize who, and what, we spend our time with, and stop taking our families for granted.

None of us will get out of this life alive, and every funeral attended, I’m sure, will bring with it regrets, for many.

Families need to do better.

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