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Woster: Priceless family memories are always worth the journey

I imagine we’re not so different from other a lot of other families. Cousins grow up knowing cousins, playing with cousins, sharing weddings, funerals, baptisms, church socials and community picnics with cousins.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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When I told my younger brother recently that I was taking a day trip with three of our cousins, he offered an observation that seemed telling for a couple of reasons.

“There was a time,’’ he said, “when a day trip involving that group of McManus kin might have found some mischief.’’

Indeed, there was. That’s a telling thing. Of the four McManuses who traveled to Huron the other day, I’m youngest, always have been. But the oldest is just three years my senior, and the others are two and one year older than I am. For as long as I remember, whenever the McManus clan gathered in one spot, the four of us were there.

Often, the gathering was at St. Mary’s Hall on a main street corner a few blocks west of the Catholic Church. Other times, we got together at Grandma McManus’s home, a small house with a modest front porch and a trimmed hedge. Looking back, I wonder how we managed to squeeze two big generations of McManuses into Grandma’s house for a meal. We just did, and my cousins nearly always were there.

And, yes, there was a time when mischief might have found us. Not very long before the day trip, we were together and a memory arose of a time during a farm wedding celebration when we swiped a few cans of beer from a stock tank. It really was just a few cans, as much as we might have embellished the story over the years.

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Those days, as I said, were back when. That’s the other telling part of my brother’s comment. “There was a time.’’ That time belongs to the past. Now when we get together, we talk about aches and pains, who among us is the latest to deal with cancer, whether Medicare will last and how our grandchildren and their children are coming along. It’s true that we sometimes recall memories from the younger days. When we do, we laugh at the good parts and shake our heads at how reckless and clueless we once were.

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I imagine we’re not so different from other a lot of other families. Cousins grow up knowing cousins, playing with cousins, sharing weddings, funerals, baptisms, church socials and community picnics with cousins.

I hope that’s still true even as society has become more mobile. My kids and their cousins are spread from coast to coast these days. They try to maintain contact, but it takes effort and coordination. My group of cousins pretty much stayed in central South Dakota. Our lives started here, and I guess our lives will end here.

That makes it easier to plan a road trip to Huron for a day. We traveled to visit an older cousin, one revered by the lot of us. We once marveled at his wit, followed every move of his dancing eyes and competed to see who could get his attention at those family gatherings.

Like the rest of us, he’s grown older. Health issues have limited his travels. I hadn’t seen him for a few years. Apparently, the others hadn’t, either, because when we got together at St. Mary’s Cemetery to say farewell to another of our cousins, we fell to talking about the one in Huron. After some shared memories, we decided we really ought to go see him. Surprise of surprises, we followed through.

I’m so glad we did. The drive isn’t much over 90 minutes. That’s three hours round-trip, a decent amount of time for four old cousins to relive days long gone and catch up on current family events. You can’t put a price on that.

Nor can you put a price on the value of our time with our Huron cousin. He struggled at times, but the eyes still danced and the smile still came easily when he tossed off a snappy comment. As we visited, I could see and feel our ages. For a few moments, now and then, the years disappeared, and we were just a bunch of McManus cousins who shared a prairie heritage.

It seems to me, that’s what family is about.

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Opinion by Terry Woster
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