One of the more interesting aspects of human nature is we share some common traits while also having qualities that make us unique. Some people in our lives are extroverted, and others are introverted. I fall somewhere in the middle. While I like my quiet times and privacy, I typically enjoy being around others.
Besides the obvious health concerns that Covid presented, one of the other main challenges for me was the periods of isolation. I craved social contact and missed being around family and friends. It’s curious how we fall into roles without initially being aware of them. One of my unique traits is I am an organizer—a guy who tries to foster togetherness. I am the person who plans a monthly retirement lunch, someone who schedules get-togethers with friends, and the guy who will reach out to others by phone or text to stay in touch. The one thing that Covid reinforced for me was never to take these relationships for granted.
One of the curious things about my three older brothers and me is that we each live in a different time zone. More than three decades ago, my parents started a tradition of getting together for a family reunion every three years. One of the brothers would typically plan the gathering. Since we take turns organizing these events, each brother’s turn happens every twelve years. We’ve made memories with eleven separate reunions now. Mom and Dad have since passed, but we have carried forth their tradition, which I hope will continue with the next generation.
While the reunions have been a great time to gather as a family, I wanted to spend quality one-on-one time with each brother. When the pandemic happened, I decided to make this fantasy a reality once things opened up again. My wife gave me her blessing, and I jumped on it.
While I am the chief organizer for getting friends together, my wife usually handles all the logistics of our travels. She is a superb planner and always does an admirable job, but I wanted to take the lead since this was my trip. I booked the flights, hotels, and rental car and developed a travel plan. Before visiting each of my brothers, I planned to rent a car and meet up with two blogging friends on the east coast. Phase #1 of my trip was to get together with the incredible Jennie Fitzkee and visit her preschool classroom in Groton, MA. https://petespringerauthor.wordpress.com/2022/05/20/the-springer-brothers-reunion-tour-part-1/ Phase #2 was a planned stop to meet one of my favorite bloggers, Jim Borden, who teaches accounting at Villanova University near Philadelphia, PA. https://petespringerauthor.wordpress.com/2022/05/27/the-springer-brothers-reunion-tour-part-2/
While those visits couldn’t have gone any better, it was time to move to the main event. The first brother gathering was in Warren, New Jersey, with my oldest brother, Jim, and my sister-in-law, Nancy. Jim was a research chemist and worked for the pharmaceutical company Merck. One of the qualities I most admire about him is that even though he is brilliant, you can’t meet a more likable and humbler guy. Much like my environmental parents, Jim shares their love of nature and is happiest when outdoors, enjoying butterflies and birds. He is vice-president of the North American Butterfly Association, and I was sure that we’d spend a lot of time outdoors looking for butterflies. As a lepidopterist (someone who studies butterflies), Jim tries to photograph butterflies in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time I was in New Jersey, but we did get a chance to get out some. Some of our other stops included the Morris Museum, The Raptor Trust, a wildlife refuge, and dinner at an Afghan restaurant.
From New Jersey, it was on to Litchfield, Minnesota, to visit my brother, Tom, and his wife, Ann. Tom is the other brother in the family who taught. He taught 40 years in Litchfield, 39 of them in third grade. I’ve always admired Tom’s patience, which served him well in his teaching career and as a parent of four children. Tom and Ann’s children (my niece and nephews) all studied abroad, yet now all live within an hour of each other in Minnesota. That means that Tom and Ann are often on grandparent duty. On one of the days in Minnesota, I was able to see all six of my grandnieces and grandnephews. That was an unexpected bonus. Tom is the President of the Rotary Service Club. He is active and enjoys pickleball and golf. On the one day the weather cooperated, we shot eighteen holes. There were heavy rains, lightning, and even tornado warnings. One of the cities only ten miles away reported tennis ball-sized hail. Can you imagine? We spent a lot of time indoors, including some hotly contested ping-pong and pool matches. On the way to the airport, Tom and Ann took me to see the largest ball of twine.
I spent the final leg of my trip with my brother, Bill, in Aurora, Colorado. Aurora is the third largest city in Colorado and is only a few miles from Denver. Bill spent many years as a loan officer at a bank and as an accountant in his tax business. He enjoys walking a few miles each day. Since I also like to exercise, I knew we’d get plenty of opportunities to walk and visit. While in Colorado, we saw the well-known Red Rocks area, a geologic wonder and home to many outdoor concerts. We also attended a professional baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the Kansas City Royals and spent part of the day at the Denver Zoo.
This trip was a memorable two-week experience, and it was wonderful to spend quality time with each of my brothers. If life has taught us anything in the last few years, we need to embrace these opportunities when they happen. It was special spending this time with my brothers. One thing I’ve done well in retirement has been to follow through on some of my long-term goals. I would advise others not to take life for granted. My life philosophy since retirement has been “no regrets.” Make those dreams come true, whatever they may be.