The Sundance Channel: “Redefining the Definition of Family”

Sundanceh Member Posts: 4,392 Member
Well, after the funeral was over, we decided to go home and change clothes and see what we wanted to do that evening – as a family.

My nephew wanted us to go to dinner at a local diner that they go to, when they go out. It’s called the Sportsmen Club and the prices are very reasonable, if not downright friendly.

It was “Wing Night” and the place was packed to the gills…the waitress took our order and said there were no guarantees there would be any left, but she’d go ahead and put the ticket in.

About that time, Cuz called us to see where we were hanging out – he wanted to break away from the establishment and come be with all of us, so we told him to come on down and he and his son showed up.

We had a couple of cocktails while we waited – at only $1.75, I could afford to be a sport and bought a round….in Texas, you can’t buy an ice cube for a buck seventy-five:)

We waited over two hours, but our order finally arrived and we enjoyed it. More than anything, I marveled at just sitting around the table with a family I could call my own and just being together, doing and saying the things that one does when their together.

And I enjoyed talking to Cuz and told him how much I had missed having him in my life too. We’ve always gotten along real well and I just enjoy his company and we picked it right back up again.

Of course, as we are leaving, “Drama” happened from the old-guard. A phone call came in and other’s feelings were hurt that we went our own way, instead of going along blindly with the rest of the herd.

Of course, nobody had bothered to consider our feelings or thought to ask any of us what we were doing or what we planned – or even, what we wanted to do. It was merely assumed, that our branch of the family tree was too fragile to sustain ourselves on our own or make any other decisions without first consulting them.

For two days, we had hopped and skipped to the family beat and been a part of all the perfunctory family commitments and events that one must do during times like these.

And I wanted to be with ‘my family’ now – and for once, somebody wanted to be with me…

It was more than that really though. I felt that WE deserved a right, as our own family unit, to establish our own boundaries and family traditions, and have the divine right to spend time with one another as our own family unit sometimes – without having to defend myself to any of the rest of them – not anymore.

Their snippiness and pettiness was exactly what we were all trying to get away from.

And if I have to get selfish I will – it’s been 12 years since they have seen me….I’ve been through a killer tornado and 3-cancers during that time….I’ve fulfilled my family obligations…and now I want to spend time with my side of the family that I want to spend time with….and I’ve missed them….’nuff said.

The phone rang again and my niece and nephew are looking to me for guidance and some assurance…I know how to fight, remember?

So, I told them just because the phone rings, doesn’t mean you have to break your neck to answer it…get it together collectively and then call them back and tell them we’re going to do this and we’ll catch up to them later.

You’re not trying to be mean – you’re just sticking up for your right to have your own family within the family matrix – plain and simple – no discussion needed. It’s only right – and it’s only fair.

Cuz called us after we got home and asked us where we would be and we told him to stop by at the house if he wanted to get away from it all…and sure enough, he drove out to the house to have some fun.

I told my nephew, “What does this tell you?”

See, it said plenty to me. What it said was that Cuz wanted to come be with us and do whatever it was that we were or weren’t going to do – whatever it was, it beat doing whatever he was looking at without us.

People always vote with their feet and their car keys – another words, we usually don’t stay where we don’t have to be – and quite frankly, we use that mobility to vote where we want to spend our time – and who we want to spend it with.

It was a compliment that he wanted to come be with us – besides, what’s not to like about us?


So, we hung around together outside and watched hundreds of fire-flies light up the sky…there were so many…I had forgotten they existed…I had not seen one since I lived in Austin in 1969.

And we just laughed and joked and talked….and talked….and talked….I did most of the talking:)


We adjourned to the porch and continued talking – and then I got on one of those rolls that comes along every now and then when I was ‘feeling it.’

I can’t remember all the things I said, but it was an impromptu comedy hours…I mean I had these guys rolling – they were laughing so hard, they couldn’t catch their breath. I even heard Kim’s laugh again, above the din of all the other laughter.

I haven’t heard her laugh like that in so long….and to think that I was able to make her laugh again…that was a wonderful moment – I’d forgotten how dam* funny how I am.


I had the rhythm, the delivery, the voices, the inflections…you name it….baby, it was all adding up in a big way – and coming out the right way too! I was hosting a comedy special out in the country on their back porch….hey, I was there all week:)

And then it was time for Cuz to finally have to leave, so he pulled out and Kim went back home with her sister - me, Niece, and Nephew stayed up again till all hours of the early morning – just talking and mentoring and sharing life. We listened to one another, while the other one talked. It was never boring – and we just never got tired of one another.

We finally went back inside about 4am…and stayed up another hour in the kitchen – talking. Go figure.

I was living every moment of this like it would be my last…I could sleep when they closed the lid on me, I figured. I was out on a prison break and I needed to stay out on the lam as long as I could hide from the real world. It’s been a little too real where I’m from lately – so, it was nice to disconnect and get off the grid.

The next day, it was Friday. This was going to be Family Day with my new family – I just like the way that rolls off my tongue, don’t you? Doesn’t that sound nice?

I was finally starting to wind down and taking things in stride and finding a slower rhythm and pace to life – it took me nearly four days with loved ones to finally slip my transmission out of gear and just let it all come to me for a change, instead of me chasing it down.

I was starting to embrace family time and eagerly looked forward to being with my family each and every day – doing something – or nothing at all – just as long as we were all together, it didn’t matter to me.

So, we woke up Friday morning, deader than a doornail, but quickly rejuvenated since that little bundle of sunshine saw me coming down the stairs and said, “Uncle Craig” and she was showing me how to skip a rope.

It was the first time, though she had called me ‘uncle’ – and it only took me about 3-days:)

I was starting to finally carve an inroad with this honey – I must admit, she is tough and plays really hard to get – she is a little heartbreaker. But, I know how to wear on a honey – and it was all just a matter of time:)

My niece had heated up some chicken patties for breakfast that morning – that’s what I like, the women folk slinging the hash for their men folk:)

Hey, I said, I was old-school:)

It does make you feel loved though…so she asked me how I wanted it…and I told her to slap some Miracle Whip on it with a slice of cheese and consider it done. And just like that, no muss, no fuss – no, do you want this – or would you like that?

Just bang – done – beautiful.

Kim was still down at her sisters, so she missed out on another simple wonderful memory that morning. We all headed outside to the patio and had breakfast together, as a family. And it was so simple – and so wonderful.

We were just making some plans for what we wanted to do and see. And just watching my little sunshine is a treat all in itself. Listening to her jabber on and hearing the way that her mind works was wonderful.

Seeing those beautiful little eyes and her hair in two little pony tails – and watching the expressions on her face and hearing the inflections in her voice as she amused herself with the things she would say, it was just transcendental to me in its wonderment.

I’ve been finding it hard the past 3-years to live in the moment as we often talk about doing. I’ve had to force my moments – make myself stay in the moment and not speed off into the distance until it was time to do so.

But here, on the porch, with the sun shining, and the day still cool enough to enjoy it outside, el fresco, I found a peace and serenity as I sat there and took all of the nature and the fellowship in.

I had tunnel vision and had lost track of the world and all of its problems. I found comfort in the bosom of my new family – and my only cares and concerns were just spending time with them.

This is not a revelation for any of you - I get that.

But, perhaps, you can see a revelation in this through my eyes…because; it was new again to me once more.

I thought a part of me had really died – and that I could never be born again – even through cancer – even though I’ve resurrected myself from the ashes of cancer to be what I am today – a person that I like and am content to be with now in my own skin and my mind.

I had finally made the transition from the fast track to the more natural way of life. I managed to settle into the new rhythmic flow of life – and found that I liked it.

I mean, here I was, sitting with my family – and planning out a full family day – and just loving that!

It’s really all of those simplicities that make up the sum of the greater whole that I’ve been looking for – and that have been sadly missing in my life.

This stuff just doesn’t happen to me – and hasn’t for many decades. I guess I just buried my feelings pretty deep – so deep I had forgotten where I had buried the body.

I was truly experiencing a re-birth – and for those of you that are following this story, you are witnessing this phenomenon, playing out live, right before your very eyes.

After breakfast, I broke the other direction to get cleaned up and got ready to go for the day. I was excited for a change – not giddy or anything, but just optimistic and looking forward to whatever wonderment we could bring out of the day.

We loaded up and headed out for adventure – we headed out for something that would be new and refreshing to me. We would go to places I had not previously been to.

Along our route, we stopped by this town, whose name escapes me, but the houses were sitting along the river bank and there was a cliff that was the perfect panoramic backdrop that framed these scenic images in my head as we drove through.

It was so serenely beautiful and tranquil – like a land that time had forgotten, that had somehow fallen off the grid – a throwback in time to where society’s vision of what the world should look like, doesn’t match up to the landscape that flowed all around me in living, vibrant 3-D.

I knew in that instant, that I wanted to have a place right here along this row of houses. Of course, that’s emotional thinking and response, but I thought I could be happy here, with a beautiful backdrop like that to wake up to and go to bed with every night – and with my family very close by.

Folks were outside walking around – kids driving ATVs – and folks just going about their business in a calm manner. It was such a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle; get him before he gets me mentality that predicates from my area of the country.

Everyone here is in a hurry to get nowhere…

We drive around some more and then we pull into this quaint little town, called Foxburg. And just like the movie – “A River Runs Through It.”

Earlier in the week, I had told my niece and nephew that I wanted to do something special for my side of the family – I wanted to take us all out to dinner at a nice restaurant and start creating our own memories as a family. I wanted to have some “Us” time and told them it was my treat.

So, it was me, Kim, her sister, my niece, my nephew, and my little sunshine. Yep, they’re all mine:)

They knew of this wonderful restaurant that sat overlooking the river – and they had an outside patio… see where I’m going with this?

Kim’s sister wanted to sit inside, because she was “worried it might rain.”

It could have hailed bricks as far as I was concerned – we’d seek shelter under the umbrella – more to the point, thanks honey, but I’ll take my chances. But, we’re sitting outside, honey.

See, these folks don’t understand that I’ve got nothing to look at where I live, except for cement and shopping centers. Kim and I have not spent any meaningful time outside, where the weather was enjoyable and especially with good company, for just about the whole eight-years that I’ve been sick with the cancer.

So, guess where we sat?

Exactly, that’s where the rest of my posse wanted to sit anyway….the inside of the restaurant was beautiful and had the weather been inclement, I would have certainly opted for there, no questions asked.

But the sun was down, the weather was finally not so hot and there was a nice breeze coming in off the river….I didn’t even need food – my soul was quickly filling up from just the scenery and the company.

So, we ordered and while we waited, they brought us some bread, ummm good. I grabbed little miss sunshine and sat her in my lap…she put up a quick fuss, but quickly became contented in her uncle’s lap.

I broke off little bits of bread and fed them to her, or handed them to her and we ate those together. It was another simplistic moment to be sure, but I found myself just relaxed and content with this adorable little child keeping me company. It was so wonderful to let me feed her, or watch her little hand take the piece of bread that I had pulled for her:)

We took some pictures and I’ll put a couple of the best ones out on my expressions page, if you want to see them.

I guess, it just really felt good to be a part of something – to be part of something that was more than what any one individual would be on their own – just simple family values, as it were, shown once again to a man, who had long ago closeted any feelings such as those, so that he would never again be hurt by letting his heart get close to someone so deeply again.

Lunch was good and we all enjoyed it immensely – for me, it was more about the company than the food…because, that’s what I’m hungrier for than anything else.

I grabbed up miss sunshine and stood her up on the railing and held her from the back so she wouldn’t fall – this little honey was in good hands, no way was I dropping her. So, we all posed for pictures around the table, using the river as the backdrop – they turned out really nice.

Again, more family hokum, I know – but, I find now at this time in my life, that I like ‘The Hoke’ more than I used to.

That’s the bread and butter that most relationships are founded upon anyway – those are the simple things that we must think about, when we are deep in the throes of cancer, and wanting to go back in our minds to a simpler, more connected time in our lives.

It turns out that Little Missy, is a model and a good poser…she just eats the camera lens up. She started doing all of these little poses and as the adults “oohed and awed”, she got even more confident and showed us even more looks – she’s a little toot.

We decided to look around town a little bit after lunch. There was a winery there and the girls wanted to go and see what that was all about, so we went to check that out. Wine stores are always cool and there is lots of cool stuff in them, even if you’re not a wine lover.

They wanted to do some wine tasting, so I just strolled about the shop and looked around and then checked their grotto out on the patio….it was a very nice place, casual and low key with old-school country charm.

I saw this crinkled glass bottle shaped in the design of a wine bottle – it had a string of lights inside of it and on the outside was the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball logo that was apparently hand painted by a local artist. I plugged it in and it did look pretty cool. I motioned to my nephew and showed it to him and he liked it as well.

You see, the Pirates are sentimental between me and my nephew. When he was very young, we took him to a couple of games on a couple of different trips. I was playing the role of big uncle, like my dear eceased uncle had taught me to be.

It’s one of the few times, you will see me flying any other colors besides, my Texas team colors…I still can’t get used to seeing myself in another team’s colors:)

Anyway, I thought nothing more about and unplugged it and strolled back through the store. When I came back up front – that piece was gone! It had walked right off the shelf. I couldn’t believe it.

I got my nephew and told him – and he feigned such a surprised look…it fooled me actually, I believed him. I said, “See, that’s what happens if you see something and don’t put your hands on it – somebody else comes along and snaps it right up.”

Nephew played it all the way to the hilt…

So, I set about trying to find another – and way in the back of the store, I did! I brought it up to the front of the store and showed my niece….

It gets good here….and it will get even better later on…

I plugged it in and said, “See, it looks pretty good, not as colorful as the Steelers, but pretty cool….see how the Pirate logo and the Bucko mascot lights up?”

And my niece deadpans back, “Yeah, it doesn’t look so good…”

It broke my heart – I thought that if my niece didn’t like it, then it must be bad…so, I took it back to the shelf and returned it. I didn’t necessarily want it, but she put a nail in any idea that I may have been harboring to consider it.

I know my face had this crushed look, but I was trying to pretend that it was all cool and everything. Kim later told me that when she said that, they could just see the life drain out of my face.

I came back up front and Kim had gotten them a couple of wine glasses and a small bottle of wine that they tasted and liked….and we headed back to the house. My nephew had a softball tournament starting later that night and we had to split to go back and get ready to go to the first game.

It had been a wonderful day and we built many wonderful memories from that side trip as our own family unit. It will be a day that I will always remember. It was just a simple time that was spent with family having good feelings with one another.

We got home and then drove into town to his softball buddy’s house, where the team was assembling and hanging out. I met the guys and their women and they seemed like a nice bunch of folks. A couple of the gals called me Uncle Craig and it surprised me – and they said we know who you are:)

We got out to the softball field – it was Friday night softball in Small Town America.

This is a lifestyle for these folks – they live, eat and breathe it when in season. They were gritchin’ that a rule had just gone into effect banning any alcohol inside the parks. This is old news where I’m from, but was very new to them and the mob was plenty upset.

Apparently, there had been some trouble recently and this necessitated that change.

But, it was still a community thing and everyone flocked to the ball fields. We found us a spot and broke out the folding chairs and watched the game. It had been awhile since I’ve seen my nephew play…over twenty years probably, when I first met him.

He was playing baseball then and had scouts were interested in him. He had real talent and I told him he needed to try out for the minor leagues and that he had the tools to maybe be a big leaguer someday.

Much like with me, Life got in the way for him….and that dream died….

Years later, here he was again and he looked really good…still very talented and athletic. He hit a home run that night and made a couple of great plays from shortstop. Several of the teams looked pretty good – it was a state competition.

As the sun went down and night began to settle in, I caught my breath and as always, began to reflect on what I was experiencing. And what I was experiencing was life. I wasn’t reading about it – I was actually taking an active role in it for a change.

I was just doing all the little simple things that I had previously shunned in a former life. Just sitting on a hill that overlooked the field watching my nephew play – playing with my little niece, when she’d have anything to do with me – spending time with my new niece – and just being quiet when the time called for that.

Watching the sun go down on another day – and wondering what I wouldn’t be doing if I were back home in Texas – all alone.

It was a double elimination and the boys lost the first game – we packed up and headed over to another ball field where he had other friends playing. Some other members of the family caught up to us there and we went to the local sub shop after the game.

Of course, with new interjection among the old guard, one must expect drama – and I was not disappointed. This was one of those perfunctory activities that you must do to keep up appearances, even if your heart finds itself somewhere else. But, sometimes, you just have to do the right thing.

We had too many of us to fit in one booth…so me and my crew slid over to the other booth (next to the table). When the old guard and her crew came out from refreshing themselves, they saw us sitting next to them – but they still saw us as apart.

And of course, she made an unnecessary snide remark…

We got through it though and I even talked long and deeply with her – she freaks out when I start to go deep and doesn’t know where to go with it, but I was sharing all trip and so I shared with her. I told her about the memories I had of her father and how his funeral had got me to thinking – things like that.

We wrapped that up and headed back home – it was time to unwind and get back outside again, so I headed outside and back to the garage – my nephew came very shortly – and my niece came out to join us after she put sunshine down for the night, she was pretty tired from a long day and had fallen asleep in the car on the ride home.

Kim and her sister joined as well. We just all talked and laughed about lots more stuff – the laughter flowed like champagne on New Year’s Eve…

After awhile, Kim and her sister left for the night to go to their place.

I figured we would be done pretty quick too – wasn’t sure how many more 5am mornings we could take….turns out we would have one last one…and this one would turn out to be one of the deepest, most meaningful, and moving nights of my entire life.

Truth, Truth, and more Truths were revealed and with each passing story that I would tell, I would feel the burdening shackles that had chained me and held me firmly in place for so long in my lifetime - would now begin to slip away as I wriggled my way out from under them and escaped their clutches.

As it would all turn out – this night would be far from over…..

How could I know that the best was still yet to come?

And how could I possibly foresee that this late night and early dawn morning would provide me with some of the most crystal clear clarity I’ve ever experienced?

How could I have possibly understood in advance, that I would expose my inner soul to a level that has never been breached before - while simultaneously laying bare my thoughts and feelings and exposing my vulnerability, and still showing my strength to say the things that most people can never bring themselves to admit to themselves – much less anybody else?

And how would I have known that we were all going to share some of the deepest connections we’ve ever felt in our lives – and we would do it with one another and forge such a lasting bond that I hope now will last a lifetime – and never be broken?

How indeed?

Well, let’s talk about all of that in the next episode of The Sundance Channel….


Next Episode: “The Garage Talks”

Come sit down and join us for one of the deepest, most meaningful nights that I’ve ever been a part of. We’ll be sharing family stories – there will be tears – and laughter – lots of hugs – and a realization that there is indeed something else behind Door #2.

There’s still time to be part of this and you’re cordially invited if you would like to stop in – you sure don’t want to miss this next installment.


  • mom_2_3
    mom_2_3 Member Posts: 953 Member
    Great episode
    That was a great episode Craig. Loved it. Wondering what part of PA you were in.

  • wolfen
    wolfen Member Posts: 1,324 Member
    mom_2_3 said:

    Great episode
    That was a great episode Craig. Loved it. Wondering what part of PA you were in.


    As you know, I can certainly identify with the loneliness of not living near your immediate family. Even though one of my children lives near, he is sometimes "far away" also. Of course, I'm probably suffering from the "old folks" syndrome we all get when our children live their own lives. LOL

    As for extended family, I'm so glad for you that you have renewed old friendships and for those who remain "tacky", don't let it bother you. Remember you can only choose your friends, not your relatives. I choose for my extended family to be so far extended as to not be seen at all.

    Luv Ya,

  • Lovekitties
    Lovekitties Member Posts: 3,364 Member
    Dear Craig
    So very glad to hear the uplifting of your spirits in this post.

    Your reconnect with your family members was great to hear.

    I too think that the hustle and bustle of the city life takes away much from our enjoyment of living. Guess that is why I have always been a 'country girl' at heart, and why I moved back to a relatively small town in Virginia for my last home.

    Sounds like you have conquered another heart with your 'little honey'

    They say a writer should always leave the reader wanting more. You have accomplished it.

    Keep the episodes coming!


    Marie who loves kitties
  • LivinginNH
    LivinginNH Member Posts: 1,456 Member
    Yes, nice story. I needed

    Yes, nice story. I needed something to make me smile today.

    Thank you my friend,

  • Sundanceh
    Sundanceh Member Posts: 4,392 Member
    mom_2_3 said:

    Great episode
    That was a great episode Craig. Loved it. Wondering what part of PA you were in.


    Hiya Amy!
    I'm delighted that you stopped in to chat. Glad you enjoyed the story. Many small towns around their area, but a couple of the bigger ones are Oil City and Franklin.

    Unfortunately, there is no economy up there to speak of....pretty distressed area financially....but they are wealthy in beautiful land and scenery:)

    This trip has really got me thinking...the next few episodes are gonna be some whoppers - I'd be glad to have you here any time you want to tune in.

    There will probably be about 3 more episodes to finish telling the whole story.

    Good to see you again!

    As Jed Clampett said, "You come back now - you hear?"

  • pete43lost_at_sea
    pete43lost_at_sea Member Posts: 3,900 Member
    it's a great channel, craig
    Its really the only tv I catch.


    Ps in a hurry going nowhere! It's a trap I try to avoid.
  • Kenny H.
    Kenny H. Member Posts: 502 Member

    it's a great channel, craig
    Its really the only tv I catch.


    Ps in a hurry going nowhere! It's a trap I try to avoid.

    Great channel indeed.
    Great channel indeed. Enjoying it an very talented writer. Envy it all, as I lack such skill.
  • tootsie1
    tootsie1 Member Posts: 5,044 Member
    Good reading!

  • mukamom
    mukamom Member Posts: 402
    tootsie1 said:

    Good reading!


    Ahhh..small town
    living and family..Doesn't get any better than that!

  • luvinlife2
    luvinlife2 Member Posts: 172 Member
    Hi Craig :)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this! Now I'll have to take time to finish reading your others. I just didn't have the time when online here. Looking forward to more!!

    Kathy :)