Hanging Out with the Relatives

We’re in Pennsylvania right now. So is my brother, Matt, and his family. They are proud Alaskan residents and since we live in Indiana and my parents live in Pennsylvania, it’s unusual for us to all be in the same place at one time. My parents took this opportunity to arrange at least one day where we all hang out together at their house.

“You better be here Saturday or I’ll kick you off the will,” Dad said on the phone. I could hear mom in the background, “Jeff! Don’t say that. It’s not nice.”

Mom made it worth our while by cooking up an amazing meal loosely based on Thanksgiving traditions.  Several pumpkin pies, a heap of turkey, Pennsylvania sweet corn, buttered beans, mountains of mashed potatoes, beef gravy, cranberry sauce, and more all arranged in a glorious display around fistfuls of candy corn piled into table centerpieces.

There was a lot happening in the homestead this weekend.

My brother Matt and his wife, Marlene, have eight children; doing their part to wield more Snader influence on the history of the world. I don’t see Matt’s family very often and it seems like every time I see them, they have a new addition to the family which bumps every child up into the next spot on the lineup. This results in me calling an older sibling by the younger sibling’s name. It’s very confusing. It doesn’t help that five consecutive children are girls and share similar hair and eye color.

My grandma Snader (Adi’s great-grandma) is also staying at my parent’s house. She has her own room with a separate bathroom and requires a great deal of care. My mom gives her showers and changes her diapers. I used to think it’s a burden to change a toddler’s diaper but not after seeing the fifty pound diapers my mom hauls outside after changing Grandma! I’ll count my blessings. There was a great deal of diaper changing, both young and old, going on at Mom and Dad’s house this weekend!

Hearing all the crazy stories about my Grandma Snader (my dad’s mom) makes me realize that I’ve got a double barrel shotgun full of crazy genetics blasted into my bloodlines. It’s a good thing I married a wonderful wife who has a completely normal family history. Oh, except for that one time Janice’s grandpa thought America was going to be destroyed by God and so he moved seven of his fourteen kids to Paraguay to escape the Apocalypse (true story).

Matt’s family drives around in a motor home which Matt and a few accomplices painted camouflage one weekend in his friend’s barn. Of course, the concept of camouflage is to blend in and pass by unnoticed but it seems to have the opposite effect when applied to a motor home. It practically screams “rich redneck” although the black moose guard on the front does give it some Alaskan flair. Believe it or not, this fine motor home does develop some mechanical issues from time to time, usually at some desolate spot of wilderness where Matt’s sense of adventure outran his sense of direction. However, the most recent mechanical issue happened in Mom and Dad’s driveway and so it gave us men a chance to all work on the project together. Matt grabbed a pliers and hammer out of the RV. His philosophy seems to be that even if a hammer can’t fix something, at least it teaches it a lesson. Maybe that’s why my dad keeps telling Matt that Matt shouldn’t buy an airplane.

“Never buy an airplane, Matt.” Dad sets down his toolbox beside the RV, carefully picking through his sockets while casting critical glances at Matt’s hammer and pliers.

The problem was that the coach batteries were going dead even while the RV was running. This meant that the RV had to be plugged in to operate the electrical systems in the back such as the interior lights, outlets, etc. When you have eight kids in an RV and you’re driving over 4,000 miles from Alaska, you need electric to power the distractions that help keep kids under control. Everything would work fine when the RV was plugged into an electric source but as soon as you drove down the road, the extension cord would unplug and problem would rear it’s ugly head once again. There wasn’t an extension cord long enough to reach from Alaska so Matt actually had to fix the problem.

We drove to two different Advance Autos to find the solenoid we needed to fix the problem. Then, in an effort to test Matt’s character, I skillfully waited until we had the part installed and the problem fixed before I shorted the connections with a circuit tester and blew a fuse somewhere in the bowels of the RV. It took an hour of flipping open cupboards and climbing under dashboards before we finally located the bad fuse.

We all congratulated each other on our mechanical abilities, went back inside, drank more coffee, and warmed up the turkey.

It’s a funny thing but when you move away from friends or family, you expect everything to freeze in time and remain the same until you come back again. Then when you come back for a visit, you’re shocked to see your younger brother is driving a car, your nieces and nephews are several inches taller, and your parent’s have renovated their kitchen. Then it sinks in that the world keeps on spinning, even without you around (unless you’re a flat earther). I mean, I knew that in theory but it’s still shocking to see the process unfold in real life.

Today I’m leaving to drive my brother-in-law’s hatchery box truck to Wisconsin. His name is Art and so he runs a hatchery in Reinholds, PA called “Art’s Hatchery.” He specializes in breeds suited for backyards and free range markets (find his breeds on this website). The truck had been involved with a bridge and the bridge came out on top, literally. The problem is that the box on the back of the truck is a highly specialized fiberglass box that’s insulated and has a climate control system that keeps baby chicks at an exact temperature. It also keeps fresh air circulating through the stacks of trays. Apparently it has to go out to Wisconsin to get repaired properly so I’ll be driving the truck out there around noon today. It’ll be around a 20 hour drive. Then Art’s other driver will deliver chicks to Wisconsin in a borrowed truck, swing by and pick me up, and we’ll head east again. We’ll be driving right past my house in Goshen so I’ll hop out there. Janice will drive home from Pennsylvania by herself on Wednesday (or whenever she decides to come home).

Life is complicated sometimes.



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