Fifty and Counting

Fifty years ago last Thanksgiving, my sister Beth brought Don Jones home to meet the family. Was he in for a shock! An only child of an only child, he was thrust into the mayhem of the four McGee girls, their parents, and the first brother-in-law. We waited a while to mention Mama’s five brothers’ and sisters’ families.

His stunned silence on that trip wouldn’t last, but we wondered if he’d be scared off. Beth must have been worth overlooking the three rather disheveled sisters who showed up at the breakfast table the next morning. She, alone, had pulled herself together in his honor.

Don made up his own role in the family. Children began to join it shortly after he did, and he said uncles were for making sure they had a good time. Soon, they checked ahead to be sure “Crazy Uncle Don” would be at the family gatherings. He was the one who found E. T. playing at the movie and hauled them all off to see it. Mama wasn’t always thrilled with his entertainment. One year he enriched the fireworks vendor’s pockets and produced a dazzling Fourth of July display. Mama was sure he was going to burn the house down. It still stands.

The Jones’s house, wherever it has been as they moved more often with the phone company than we did with the Army, has been a family stopover. They were handy in nearby New Jersey when our car was held up in the New York port over the weekend on our return from Belgium. Our oldest two children, exactly one year apart in age, used it as a get acquainted time. Later, we descended with all three of our children on our way from one place to another. Their home maintains a welcome if any of the family needs to pass through or be in Birmingham.

Don’s engineering skills have made him a welcome guest to sisters-in-law with non-working refrigerators and such. My own relationship with him involved his picking a stance on a controversial topic, which he might or might not actually believe, just to start a discussion - or argument if you want to be precise. Taking his bait, I disagreed vehemently with him until he got me to the point that I said, “I don’t know,” which had been his goal in the beginning.

Those days are gone, along with the children who have become adults with kids of their own, scattered about the country. His role has switched a bit. In retirement, he and Beth have followed his dream of traveling in their RV. When they near one of the nieces or nephews, they make arrangements to take their family out to dinner, seeing to it that yet another generation of kids has a good time. The Arizona branch of the family has become a little cautious about this. It seems every time they choose a favorite restaurant for this excursion, the place closes shortly after they eat there.

On this their Golden Wedding Anniversary, we wish them happiness and many more years together. We are grateful to Beth for finding him and to Don for figuring out his place in a big family. He can laugh first at the inside family joke, but then I’d like him to take it as the truth when I say, “It has been a blessing.”