"Other things may change us but we start and end with family." --

Anthony Brandt

Mike's reunion rules:

1. No making fun of the grandkids.

2. No making fun of Jack, his sweet little black and white Papillion. 

3. No making fun of Sheldon–Michelle, Mike's wife of 10 years.

4. You get one towel for the whole week.

5. No cell phones or laptops can be used for work.

(This last rule is directed towards Jim, the middle brother who is a chronic can't-take-a-step-without-his-iPhone, 112 hours per week workaholic).

It's the fourth annual Wiederhold Brothers reunion, held this year in the Middletown, New Jersey home of Mike, the rulemaking youngest of three boys born to Norm and Ruth Wiederhold from Long Island, New York.

The eldest brother, Craig, from Savannah, Georgia, rounds out the trio.

There are six Wiederhold offspring from the three brothers present: Tara, Aaron, Chrissy, Carrie, Brian and Kyle. And there are three wee Wiederhold: Cole, Maggie and Olivia. (A new baby boy Wiederhold will arrive in December.) Not everyone was able to make it this year, but they are all here in spirit.

The wine flows freely, and the laughter bounces off the wall and spills out into the expansive, beautifully landscaped backyard.

The kidding and teasing are unmerciful – it's the “New York way,” I am told, and a form of affection. There is a hilarious toilet mishap and the screen door is ripped off its track several times. An in-depth talk breaks out about colonoscopies; there is dancing to music from an Elvis impersonator and swimming in the spotless, turquoise colored pool.

Sunny days give way to cool clear nights, with shimmering stars, twinkling fireflies and ear drum splitting fireworks on the Fourth of July.

There is swimming, eating, drinking and talking punctuated with laughter.  

The gathering is filled with love and acceptance. A 20-year-old is conversing with a 60-year-old; the good old days of bug ball, family dinners and trips made long ago are remembered with fondness.  Conversation flows easily among family and newcomers alike, so a person you just met seems like an old friend, and little ones play happily underfoot. It feels like an island vacation at an exclusive resort.

Coffee and wine are consumed as quickly as they can be made and poured. The whir of the blender gets going before noon with some sort of fruity concoction--perhaps Robert’s bug juice or Michelle's margaritas.

People flow in and out of the gathering, and family of those loved ones long departed are still connected by the deep love that spans generations, acknowledging the passing of years, remembering past love but also making room for new love to come in. 

Some are newlyweds; some have new jobs; some are expecting children; and some are new grandparents, newly retired or just transitioning into a new phase of their lives. Some have lost a beloved family member; others are dealing with health issues. And at least one has introduced a new love to this rowdy Wiederhold clan – how brave! Some have long been associated with them, some only a few years. But the common vibe is a warm sense of the deep connection of family that is such a rarely acknowledged but precious gift. 

These three Wiederhold boys, now men, and all the generations that follow them, carrying on the legacy that began with a strong Father, a loving Mother, a good family. Norm and Ruth would be proud.