Inherent within this business of approaching the precipice of middle age is the unrelenting march of time. The more time one collects, the greater the opportunity for comparison, contrast and inevitable (if you’re me) conclusion drawing.

Or at least assumption making.

Think of a slide rule. If the ruler part is a horizontal family tree, the slider allows focus on a specific, particular chronological sliver.
My mother’s brother, the Reverend Dr. Robert Keith Ordway, died this week in southern Texas at 82. Mom lost her sister, my Aunt Linda, a couple years back. Move the slider to the left a notch to find their parents, Victor and Elizabeth (Bemis) Ordway.

Over the river and through the High Plains to grandmother’s house we would go. Vic and Libby lived in a sprawling farm house in Rooks County, Kansas. Our family gatherings were happy and joyous. We kids would assemble in our grandparents’ pine-paneled basement, pump up the volume on the record player and air guitar/lip sync our way right on to Ed Sullivan’s stage.
We called our band The Cousins. What we lacked in creativity, we made up for in enthusiasm.

After Uncle Bob and Aunt Eva divorced it was never really the same. All clouded up in ‘70s-era stigma over divorce, our generation never really mastered the protocol that spells out what a family’s supposed to be like, post-divorce.

Then my parents got divorced and the cloud got darker.

Then I got divorced and it really hit home. The truth is not always kind. Engage clumsily or don’t engage.

Time plows forward, society evolves, mores nuance and each succeeding generation gets smarter. My son, niece and nephew’s generation appear unshackled by the fears and false pride of their forebears and engage with ease and aplomb.

As the slider moves to the right, there’s more enlightenment.

What I’ll carry from my Uncle Bob’s life, stems from the brief period when we all lived in the same city, Wichita, ca. 1970. Our pre-divorced families would engage on weekends. Eastsiders them (Vickridge), westsiders us (Pleasant Valley).

Three kids in our family. Six in theirs. Talking individually with his boys, Uncle Bob would call them, “Son.” It seemed to mean something to my cousins. When Scott came along, I made a conscious choice to call him, “Son.” Still do.

Thanks, Uncle Bob.

Mom’s now all alone in her generation, the sole survivor of her nuclear birth family. Sadness, also, when I think of my fatherless cousins. Makes me want to cherish and honor my parents more. While they’re still here. Let’s keep the slide rule static for a while, thank you very much.

Headed to Nashville next month where my siblings and our kids will gather with Mom. 

Pop’s in Wichita and I see him at least once a month. Lately I’ve been interviewing him about his troubled childhood. Formal, audio recorded interviews. Pop sees the end and we both know exactly what we’re doing (more this summer, in this space).

One day very soon, in the blink of an eye, really, we’ll all be just a fading memory in the hearts and minds of those whose DNA we share and whose blood courses through our veins.

The bonds formed by air guitars in pine-paneled basements... the love and respect inherent in a father addressing his male offspring as “Son.”

These are the important things. This is why God put us on the planet. Everything else is just window dressing.