Families are like fudge — mostly sweet with a few nuts.  ~ Author Unknown

Families are like fudge — mostly sweet with a few nuts.  ~ Author Unknown

Fowler family reunion #15 kicked off a couple of weeks back at cousin Joe and Suzi Fowler’s house in Pittsburg’s Westfield Acres.
 
A great place for a gathering, their house is open and inviting, discerningly decorated, and features a large deck and pool for outdoor enjoyment. We leisured about sipping adult beverages and sharing a southeast Kansas feast of Pallucca’s rigatoni, Barto’s chicken, blackberry cobbler, peach pie and assorted cookies.
 
Part of the evening I found myself in a side room with the last of the remaining fourteen Fowlers — children of J.T. and Ada (Davenport) Fowler, all raised up in Arcadia.
 
Fortunately, my mother, Helen Knoll, uncle David Fowler, aunt Peachie Bedene and aunt Jo Ferraro are still all sound enough of mind to visit, tell stories, employ flowery language, and tease one another.
 
I say “sound enough of mind” because they are, after all, Fowlers and, anyone whose mixed with them, as I have over the last 63 years, knows they are sometimes prone to spells of lunacy. But I would be the first to point out that, most times, the clever brand lunacy rather than the dimwitted.
 
Also present in the room were several of my cousins — children, nieces and nephews of the original fourteen — listening to the stories of growing up in RKDIA.
 
One story in particular I found interesting was about a couple of my now deceased, older, devout aunts reflecting— when they were well into their eighties no less — to one of my cousins about sex. “I pray everyday that God,” one told my cousin, “will take away my preoccupation with sex.” Haw!
 
Not that it was a total surprise  — a recent National Institute on Aging survey found that 26 percent of respondents enjoyed sex well into their eighties. It’s just that it’s not the way you tend to think abut your old aunts. But it does give us cousins something to look forward to in our golden years.
 
Next day there was a golf tournament at Crestwood (in which I did not play because it was too damn hot) and visiting around the Lamplighter Inn pool (which I also didn’t do because it was too damn hot).
 
I did, though, represent my mother in proxy at the family business meeting in the cool confines of the motel. It was my first time.
 
Business meeting is too restrictive a description. I found it more a combination of encounter, good-natured taunting, pranking, and storytelling wrapped around Robert’s Rules of Order (modified version). Had a great time. Heck, if I’d known business was that much fun back in college I might have majored in accounting instead of psychology.
 
Saturday night we held the annual “Dad” Fowler Poker Tournament. All comers welcome. I had fun there too, not because of winning (I dropped thirty bucks) but because of the visiting, storytelling, goading and goofing that wound around and through the room. Not to mention watching Marie, who had amassed a huge stack of chips, ask on several occasions, “Now what beats what?” before calling a bet.
 
Sunday morning I was the Rev. at an ecumenical, bring-your-own-God church service. We sang “How Great Thou Art”, after which I read a couple of family poems and talked a little about Jesus and Christianity. Specifically something Muslim mystic poet, Rumi, said, “Where Jesus lives, the great-hearted gather. We are a door that’s never locked. If you are suffering any kind of pain, stay near this door. Open it.”

Uncle David stood and talked about kindness, read a couple of verses from the Gideon bible, and lovingly reflected on the family tree, from grandma and grandpa Fowler through all fourteen children.
 
From the Catholic Mass, I borrowed the prayers of the faithful. We voiced, together, prayers for the poor and oppressed, the local food pantry, the young, the unloved, the sick and dying, and the deceased — as well as called out our own individual intercessions. We also shared a sign of peace, which, in our case, meant that everybody in the room hugged.
 
Before closing we took some time to discuss and set the date for the next reunion. Research has shown that there is great importance in extended families. Not just in keeping the family history alive but in the ongoing relationships between aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
 
This can include everything from direct care giving, to supportive advice, to mentoring, to mediating adjustments to a divorce.  Issues even more important these days due to the challenges of everything from raising children to taking care of aging parents.

After reading the Prayer of St. Francis, we closed the service with “Amazing Grace.” My developmentally delayed brother, Bill, came forward to play the kazoo and join me in leading the song, the third verse of which spoke directly to the moment: “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far. And Grace will lead me home.”

J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net