The much-anticipated River Cruise adventure that Grandpa Runnells had been planning took place this past weekend. The festivities began at Pere Marquette park, where we all met for lunch. By the time everyone arrived, Grandpa's siblings and their spouses, his six children and most of their spouses, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it was a picnic 35+ strong. At departure time, we all boarded the boat, a bigger version of the up north party boat, to venture down the Milwaukee River and into the Lake Michigan Harbor.
There were plenty of sights to see, most of which were actually on or along the river - there was plenty to see onboard too, it turned out. The trip was so relaxing and scenic that I found myself thinking I could live on the river, but then there were those moments when the smell of the river became a bit too pungent for our patience, and I found myself back in reality, where living on the River will not be in my future.
|it got cold for a while|
|I used to work in the building behind the pirate ship|
|Amy and Annie|
Sweetly, Grandpa took the microphone mid-ride to thank all of us for our presence. We were a captive audience, and not just because we were mid-river. Grandpa spoke of how this was something he and Grandma wanted to do with us all, and he reminded us of what we all have come to know, that Grandma is with us in all we do, especially when we are gathered together as a family.
|Grandpa with his girls (Grandma would have loved this, I think)|
|a table for 26|
As I settled in for the night, it was perfectly clear to me that these are the moments in life worth living and never forgetting. One day, many, many years from now, I am sure the Runnells cousins will be together, and when the topic of conversation shifts to that boat cruise we took one summer long ago, we'll laugh about Annie's new friend on the boat, Xavier wrapping himself from head to toe to stay warm, Shannon's fantastic Snuggie, fighting over baby Addie, and loving every minute of the precious time we had with each other, with our parents, and with Grandpa.
In light of all that this past year has entailed, this was a critical moment for me. It wasn't that I expected I would lose touch with the Runnells family simply because Brian and I spend most of our time with more than 1,000 miles between us; I couldn't help but wonder, however, if the relationship I had with our family, with the family he brought me into, would change. You see, since the beginning, the Runnells clan has been 'my' clan. I've always felt like one of them, not like someone who simply married in. I didn't want to lose that family connection, and I was worried, truth be told, that their perception of me might change; I did leave Brian to fend for himself when I came home to continue my career last summer (though, aside from keeping things clean, Brian is pretty capable of caring for himself). Though Grandpa probably didn't know it, but through this cruise, he provided me with a very special and much needed gift, the reminder that I'm one of the family and always will be.
Oh this life, it's a beautiful ride!