The cast of characters. And yes, many of them are indeed characters! These are not their actual names, since most of these folks don't know about the blog. If you read enough of it, you might know why....

Dad—Died in 1994, born in 1919. He was born on a homestead claim that was never proved, and built his first house when he was 16. He went on to build several other houses, including the one in which I grew up, along with loads of other buildings. He had a terrible, terrible head for business and trusted people far too much. Raised in a VERY strict religious home, he loosened up a lot over his lifetime, but he never learned to tell jokes properly, which made listening to him tell them even funnier. I'll cop to being a total Daddy's Little Girl in all the best ways.
Mom—Died in 2009, born in 1921. Toward the end, every system seemed to slowly shut down: diabetes, several strokes which stole much of her cognitive ability and the use of the small muscles in her left hand, depressed, and finally bedsores brought on by a van accident in which her femur was broken. Our relationship was always fraught, though mostly from my side I'm afraid.

The Oldest’s family:
Marie—Born in 1943. She is the sensible one, but I've found out more lately at what cost that sensibility has come. She’s also got terrible food-induced allergies, which she’s fought off for 25 years. And high blood pressure, and mitral valve prolapse. And two knee replacements--well, three since one had to be redone in 2012.
Jan—Her husband, also born 1943. Has had prostate cancer and beat it (his father died of it). Is losing his hearing but not really accepting that fact. He has become in many ways a dirty old man. Embarrassing—he’s also ADHD/OCD. He is very much the most annoying person in the family.
Elizabeth—The oldest grandchild. She was born in 1969, and the equivalent of my sister in many ways, except for the family tree. She is also a librarian, in academia. She and Wayne married in July 2007.
Wayne—What a great guy! I couldn't be more pleased in the man Elizabeth chose as her husband; he's definitely worth the wait. He proved himself in January '07 by driving with Elizabeth straight-through 14 hours so she could be with her sister in a crisis...while he was seriously ill with the flu. And he sure loves his little guy.
Justin—Born December 2009 to Elizabeth and Wayne. REALLY looks like Wayne. Wreaking havoc in their lives as only a very-much-wanted baby can do. And he's--of course--the cutest kid in the world.
Katherine—She was born in 1972 and married in the summer of 2005. She is uptight, and very very internalizing. Doesn’t smile much, easily frustrated and also impatient. She smiles more now that she's married than she has in the previous 10 years. Lost her unborn baby at New Year's 2007, which also nearly led to her death as well. They live geographically nearest of any of my family members.
Alan—Katherine's husband and quite the calming influence on her. He's a great guy whose hobbies are miniature railroads and redoing his '50s-era tract house into a livable, Wright-esque home. He's done almost all the work himself, and now Katherine is working with him on it.
Nathanael—Born and died December 31, 2006. First great-grandchild of the family, born to Katherine and Alan, and a victim of HELPP Syndrome.
E.—Born July 28, 2013, about 2 weeks before his "due date" to ensure no recurrence of HELPP.
J.—Born September 25, 2015, also about 2 weeks early. Immediately thereafter had surgery to remove a tumor from his kidney. Otherwise very healthy and a pistol. This kid is going to brook no arguments!

The Fun Sister’s family:
Ellen—Born in 1946, she died in 1994 (two weeks after Dad). She was the troublemaker as a child, always the one who instigated others. She developed aplastic anemia in the mid-60s--a death sentence she somehow beat through strength of will and the power of prayer. She died of lymphoma when her youngest son was a freshman in college.
Dean—Her husband, born in 1943. He lived with his mom for 20 years till she died of pancreatic cancer in 2014. In the span of five years his wife, father, and brother died of cancer. He’s an alcoholic -- has been one for decades -- and by 2002 or so had become totally dysfunctional. He used to be my favorite; now I just feel incredible sadness when I think of him.
James—The oldest grandson. He was born in 1973. Unmarried, socially inept. But, he is one of those people who always land on their feet, no matter what: skateboards, cars, falling off roofs…nothing fazes him. He is inventive, very smart, and has faced the reality that he is an alcoholic like his dad, grandpa and uncle...and is doing his best to break that cycle. He bought his first house in 2014 where he and Don live.
Don—He was born in 1975 and was his mother’s favorite in many ways. In his '20s he bore a striking resemblance to Marlon Brando -- the Brando of the '50s, when he was gorgeous. He drives a truck for a living. He has a dry, ironic sense of humor and tends to disappear into the woodwork until he says something hysterically apropos and biting, often under his breath.

The Cool Sister’s family (outside the U.S.):
Jean—She was born in 1949 and died in August of 2010 of pneumonia. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in about 1998, which morphed into Multiple System Atrophy in 2006. She was always the Cool Sister, though. It was heartbreaking to watch her decline, physically and emotionally.
Reg—Her husband. He was born in 1943, so he was several years older than her and was still playing in a local soccer league into his early 60s. Very smart, very fun, loves life, and learning. Very into envrionmental awareness: they never had a dryer until the PD got really bad, and he composts as much of their garbage as is possible.
Rosellen—Their oldest daughter, who was born in 1979. She is a physicist now working in unrelated fields doing statistical analysis for the government, but incredibly brilliant, and also one of the nicest people I know. Married Spence in April 2011, and within months they moved to Spain to live.
Spence—Rosellen's husband. Very into sport-climbing, which he and Rosellen do regularly together. I think they met at work. He's quite British and very adorable.
I. and M.—Twin girls born in Spain in December 2015. Little pudgeballs. Cute as can be. They've all moved back to England now.
Marguerite—The middle child, born in 1981. Married in 2004, very earnest and young and funny, and a great cook and seamstress. She is into Good Works and art. She now works for the government doing census work while in her off-work hours she works on updating their century-old house. In 2012 she started doing theatrical costuming again, which she loves and is excellent at, mixed in as she can with being a mom of two.
Ben—Marguerite's husband, who is several years older than her. He is focused, smart, and somewhat of a pain. On the other hand, he is a kind person, organized and helpful in almost any circumstance. Getting to know him has been a lot of fun.
Simi—Born December 3, 2012, at home. Had a few days in a light bed at hospital due to jaundice, but otherwise no problems. Sweet-natured and another who looks just like his dad!
A.—Born June 11, 2015. Like his brother he was born at home, but no visit to hospital needed. Fabulously smily.
Jesse—The baby of Jean's family, who was born in 1984. He received his degree in Religion, went to work briefly in the schools as an aide, then floated around a bit before running for office and winning a seat on the city council. A really nice, earnest guy, not afraid to be religious, but also very normal. I have always felt somewhat responsible for him since dropping him on his face when he was 4 months old.
Anna—Married Jesse in September 2016, though they've been friends and/or dating since before Jean died; she was at the funeral. We've been Facebook friends since. Quite an amazing woman.

The Brother’s family:
Del—Born in 1953, he used to be my idol: nothing he did was wrong and I always stood up for him. That ended a few years ago when I realized how selfish he is. He has told Marie and me that his wife is an alcoholic, as was his first wife. And he’s had his bout with it as well, in the late '80s. He’s finally -- quite late -- getting a clue that life is serious business. He’s got high blood pressure, his back is shot, and he’s got bad circulation in his hands from years of fighting fires. Diagnosed with diabetes in 2006.
CC—His wife, since 1998 (I think) and only a couple of years old than me. Very nice, she gets along well with all of us, probably because her family is wacky too. She had only left the state she was born in once in her life before moving 3,000 miles across the country to marry my brother. They met online. She loves to read mystery books.
Ham—The son, from Del’s first marriage, born in 1984. He was raised by his mom, who lived in bars and went home with (or brought home) anyone she wanted to sleep with. CC has always gotten along very well with him. He currently is a TSA agent in Texas. Married in October 2011.
Kate—A true, 100% Texan. She seems quite nice, VERY young (only 3 years older than Sparky), but I hope for her sake she has strength of character to deal with Ham and Del.
G.—Born December 30, 2013. A sweet little blond boy who takes after his mother in virtually every way.

My household:
Me—Born in 1963, ten years after my parents thought they were done with babies, though Mom always made sure I knew I wasn't a "mistake" by calling me a "surprise." Dad & I had a great relationship. I have environmental allergies, less severe than the Marie's food allergies. I had a full hysterectomy in 1997 because the doctors suspected the fibroid tumor I didn't know I had was cancerous. It wasn't. Used to be skinny; now have diabetes and an extra 100 lbs. that wasn't there 20 years ago.
Beast—Same age as me, basically. He played football in Texas (in high school) and he played elsewhere in college and has the body now to prove it. Looks Beast(l)y, but is really a teddy bear. Mostly. Except when he's angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry. Has been struggling with alcoholism for the past three years. Finally in program consistently August 2016.
Sparky—The light of our lives born in 1993. Smart. Adorable. Funny. I’m biased. But the best part is that he is definitely healthy by all counts, praise God. Looks a great deal like his granddad (my dad), especially when he's snarling with anger. He has turned into a delightful young man.


The Beast’s Family:
FIL—Born 1930, died fall 2011. Had diabetes, controlled by diet, as well as apnea for decades, and developed many other ailments in the last 5 or 6 years of his life. Moved to assisted living facility near us in late 2008 after MIL's death. I loved him dearly because he was always been gallant and kind to me, as he was with most everyone. He had the biggest heart of anyone I know.
MIL—Born in 1937, died in 2008. Smoked, had several heart attacks, and had degenerative joint disease, but ultimately died of metastasized lung cancer. She was occasionally obtuse, but one of the best gifts I got when I married her son was a relationship with her. She really was the mom I could talk to.
BIL—Born in 1969, dated the same woman for nearly 8 years, and then they split when she pushed toward some kind of commitment. Otherwise, he’s an absolutely great guy. Smart, fun, argumentative, loads of music knowledge, very involved in social issues. Writes for a living, volunteers with Amnesty, and lives in the Big Apple.

{{Originally posted October, 2004; updated substantially in April 2006. Names added and other updates made in January 2007, October 2007, May 2010, May 2011, October 2011, February 2012, October 2015, and September 2016.}}
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