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Happy mingling among generations of family PDF Print E-mail
Friday, August 19 2016 13:13

Their names were Thomas and Bridget Keane, but to their children and grandchildren they were always Pop and Bird. They lived in Boston in the early years of the 20th Century, and raised four sons and two daughters. They were not rich, except in intelligence, affection and humor. Their faith was their bedrock, and education was valued far beyond any material success it might produce.

A family trademark was the love of words. In any Keane gathering, you can find versifiers, Scrabble players, and compulsive crossword-puzzle solvers.

These gatherings have been occurred over a long period. I attended my first reunion 40 years ago, when I married into the family. In those days, our host was my wife’s uncle, the youngest of Bird and Pop’s children. He and all his generation are gone now, and we are the elders.

But they were surely present in spirit earlier this month, when almost 40 of their descendants (and descendants-in-law) gathered in Rhode Island. “Summer afternoon” are said by some to be the most beautiful words in our language. That day, it was easy to understand why.

We were enjoying the hospitality of a younger cousin, and we had come together on a broad lawn in the late-day sunshine. New groups continued to arrive, and were greeted with happy shrieks and hugs.

Needless to say, we had all kinds of things to talk about. We shared news, and continued conversations that had begun years ago. We tried not to offer advice to the young, apart from urging them to come and study in the Boston area.

There was also what I might call family-tree talk. Several members of our generation have done serious genealogical research, and many of us are pleased to discuss second and third cousins, and cousins once removed. A special complication is that there are also double cousins, something that happens when two brothers marry two sisters. I am told that it is great fun to have cousins who have all the same relatives you do.

No Keane gathering is complete without some discussion about how to pronounce the name. Bird and Pop pronounced it Kane, and most of their descendants persist in doing so as well. But there is a significant Keene minority. All would agree, however, that Tim Kaine, who may be our next vice president, may have wonderful gifts but doesn’t know how to spell.

As the members of each generation assembled for photographs, we were all amused by the variety of ages in each group. The members of our generation ranged in age from 67 to 88, and the next one went from 19 to 58. It was proof, if any was needed, that families do not march through their lives in lockstep.