A day I won't soon forget...

 I have a little personal story for you for this time around.

Most of my family lives in the Fond du Lac and West Bend area. My Uncle Leo and Aunt Bette live in their retirement dream home on Big Sand Lake outside of Phelps up north.

So, when my Uncle Leo turned 80 this year, Cousin Schmalman had the idea of getting as many people together in the rest of the family as possible and taking a bus up to surprise him. Normally, this stuff is just passing talk that never really happens. This last weekend, it really happened for my family. Thanks to some supreme organizing efforts by Cousin Mavis. (Schmalman and Mavis are nicknames, by the way)

And a day doesn't get any better! I'm flooded with warm memories just thinking about it days later. And I think these memories are going to last a long time.

The motorcoach left from "back home" early in the morning and picked me and a couple other relatives up in Antigo on the way up. How that driver squeezed that huge vehicle down that lakeside road to my Uncle's house I will never know.

After that, the look on Uncle Leo's face was priceless. My Dad and his surviving brother and sister were the first off the bus. They were followed by all the in-laws, nieces, nephews and friends who could make it. Uncle Leo's always been a big, lovable teddy bear of a man. And he was at his best the day of the surprise. Greeting each and everyone of us with that huge smile and catch phrases he's famous for, "and I don't mean may be."

Aside from seeing the look on his face, it chokes me up to think of seeing my Dad, Uncle Leo, Aunt Audrey, Uncle Ray and my late Uncle John's wife, Aunt Barb all together again. I wish John was still with us himself.

Beyond the surprise for Uncle Leo, it was a great chance for me to see almost long lost cousins. All these people I saw for every holiday when I was a kid, I get to see less and less now. And we made up for it with plenty of catching up, laughing, singing, eating and drinking.

Here's hoping it's the first of many get togethers for us. And here's hoping all of your family gatherings leave you with a warm feeling, to.

Thanks for letting me indulge in a family story. If you have one you'd like to share, you know what to do.

And here's a picture of Uncle Leo, his kids and all but two of his Thelen nieces and nephews.

J

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