A beach bar. My wife and I are with our cousins, James and Jessica. We are eating pizza. Somebody got a little crazy and even ordered oysters.
You know what my favorite part of any family gathering is? Not oysters or pizza. The part at the end. It takes place in the parking lot, before everyone parts ways. It’s called the Goodbye Ceremony.
In this part of the world, the simple act of saying goodbye can last for three hours. Sometimes longer if it’s football season.
James and Jessica are cool cousins. I once rode out a hurricane with James. I’ll never forget it. Hurricane Ivan was tearing through Brewton, Alabama. The rest of the family was downstairs, listening to a radio by candlelight.
James and I were upstairs, the ultimate thrill seekers, watching the storm. But we couldn’t see anything because it was too dark.
So our entire conversation basically went like this:
“Did you hear that?”
“What about that?”
When the storm hit, we heard creaking and groaning. It sounded like the core of the planet was getting ripped from the soil and hurling through outer space somewhere above the casino in Atmore.
The next morning, the town had lost so many trees you couldn’t drive down Belleville Avenue. The power was out. It was tragic.
But Brewton’s families banded together. You could see people on porches, cooking food on gas grills, drinking beer at noon.
Because that’s what family does.
Family is important to me. It becomes even more important the older I get. I didn’t grow up with much. And at this age I have to sort of create my own, which isn’t easy because I have no kids.
This is tough sometimes because I really like kids. I like them so much that every child I meet—I know this is going to…