There was a migration of hundreds of McGuires last weekend, and all because of Richard P. McGuire and his wife Margaret. Every five years, the family descends upon the small farming community of Wisner, Nebraska. The weekend is spent connecting with immediate and extended family, relearning or being introduced to the history that defines us, and feeling genuinely connected to something much bigger than any of us.
At the Sunday Mass, a couple from another branch of our family celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. We were all witness to the renewal of their vows, and for me, it was one of the more touching moments of the day. Sixty years!! Are you kidding? It reminded me that no one in that room would have been sitting there had it not been for the decision by Richard P. McGuire to marry Margaret McMahon. In six short generations, there are enough people to fill an auditorium every five years.
The family operates on a constantly changing bell curve. The older generations are smaller each time while the younger generations often grow with marriages and children. The generation pictured below is the fourth generation. This is the group that should include my dad, but he was not there and, barring a miracle, he will likely never be able to attend another one of the McGuire reunions. For me, my closer connections are my dad’s four brothers. It is through them I feel woven into this group. It is through them that my son learned about who his grandfather used to be, and it is though them that I will forever have pride in my Irish family.
I don’t imagine that R.P. and Margaret were perfect, nor that their children led lives free of mistake, but I took several minutes over the weekend to look around at the room they had created, and I couldn’t help but to think that they had done something right. They loved well enough, they passed down a strong pride in heritage and the people in that room had an air of open generosity that is well-worth celebrating.
My brother, (pictured below) and his wife are expecting their first child, and he/she will be the only “McGuire” baby in my immediate family. As my brother stood and contemplated the headstone of his great-great grandfather, I said a short prayer in thanks for all that marriage can do.
The marriage of my great-great- grandparents is ultimately responsible for my children. How could I ignore what that means? I am so grateful for the willingness of this family to continue to gather. How else could I foster in my kids the kind of pride that encourages Big Sprout to sport an “I’m proud to be Irish” button while embracing his second-cousin-once-removed (or however he’s related to the son of my dad’s first cousin)?
It was a wonderful reunion and I think we all feel a bit more grounded after the McGuire reunion weekends. I recognize the miracle of those who remain and continue to want to organize, but I celebrate the power of marriage to do wondrously miraculous things too.