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Prime Time: August is the time for family visits

August was our family vacation month for many years. My college prof husband usually taught a four- or six-week summer session, but by the end of July that was done.

As long as our parents lived, it was then time to head to the old home town in northern Illinois to help celebrate two important birthdays on the 23rd: Wag's mom and my dad. It was a bit of a complication, but in some ways a help, that both came on the same day. When my mother was alive she always gathered both extended families for a joint celebration. It got a bit more complicated after her death and my dad's eventual remarriage to a woman who was not at ease with being a cook and hostess to large gatherings of assorted family members. We sometimes met separately with the two sides of the family but sometimes arranged a gathering at a local restaurant or ordered out food for a celebratory meal.

When our kids were relatively young, the trip of many hours from Minnesota to Illinois was a bit of a drag. Cars were not air conditioned, there were no four-lane highways, and slower traffic could lead to frustrating delays, squirmy kids and frequent stops for treats or urgent rest room breaks. However, the enthusiastic reaction of the grandparents on both sides when we arrived assured the kids of plenty of positive attention when we finally got there.

Another problem for comfortable summer living in those years was that almost no one had air conditioning in their homes. We often went to an afternoon movie or an upscale restaurant just to enjoy the fact that air conditioning had found its way into those establishments long before it became feasible to install it in the average home.

Now that we are the golden oldies of the family things have changed. Even though our extended family is located on both the west and the east coasts, as well as in Wisconsin and southern Minnesota, we are now not up to making the trips to visit them that we once did. Fortunately, the attraction of other extended family members and our tempting lake shore location usually bring them to Minnesota for a visit at least once a year.

When my husband's delightfully feisty grandmother used to say, "If you want to see me you will have to come here!"

I thought it sounded crabby, but I must admit I now fully understand her viewpoint, and I try not to sound too demanding, but that is the message the family must now get from us.

I pore over the delightful snapshots the families send us and carry them in a little book in my purse. I will gladly show them to anyone who exhibits the least bit of interest. Now that we are in our late 80s, those beloved faces are our proof of the value of life and their visits are the greatest joy of our aging years.