This. These are my people. This is where I come from.
As a child, it was hard for me to understand the outpouring of love from these women and men that I saw only once every few years. A bear hug...a sticky kiss leaving lipstick on my face...a squeeze of the bottom (yes, even that).
Now I get it. After facing cancer, and being lifted up by their prayers, their gifts of the heart, cards and texts, their phone calls and visits, I Really Get It. I want my children to know the same love. I want it enough to brave a full day's travel to Michigan...another full day to get home. (As I write this, we're halfway through our trip home. Let's see if I'm feeling this poetic when the third flight lands at 1:40AM Michigan time!)
Many things have changed. Grandpa's cocktail hour is no longer on the Lake. The Aunties still wear lipstick, but now some of them use walkers, too. My uncle and I take some of the same cancer meds. Instead of chasing fireflies with my cousins, we now chase our offspring.
My kids will remember a different Michigan than I do. But they'll know the same love. I know. I cleaned the lipstick off their cheeks.