Not living around family has NOT been my first choice. With three years of graduate school in Memphis, a couple years of preaching in North Carolina, seven years in Arkansas, and thirteen-plus years in Texas, I have missed being around my family. I'm so envious of families who raise their children around grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins. For two years in Searcy, one of my little sisters and one of Diane's little sisters were students at Harding. So Matt and Megan had aunts (and one little cousin) around. Not just aunts. But cool, college-age aunts. And for the the past two years another of Diane's sisters, my brother-in-law, and three nieces have lived here. On our end, we've tried to bridge the gap. Every other year we've alternated Ohio (McKee) and Missouri (Copes) Christmases. On the Ohio Christmas years, we've usually driven to Missouri (that's Miz-ur-uh) for Thanksgiving. And my parents have been wonderful. Who knows how many trips they've made to pinch-hit as babysitters or to see graduations, soccer games, baseball games, basketball games, and football games. Matt's senior year when AHS made it to the state quarterfinals, they came to two regular season games and all four (!) post-season games. Four straight weekends they drove from MO to Lubbock (twice) or Texas Stadium (twice). My youngest sister, now a teacher in AR, is a reliable e-mailer. My brother, a newspaper publisher (and executive for a newspaper chain), and I go through spurts of e-mail flurries. We know we're always there for each other. I know it hasn't been easy from my parents' end: having their grandchildren carted around from NC to AR to TX. But they have called, sent cards and photos, remembered every Christmas/birthday/Halloween/Easter, and visited often. While Megan was alive, they kept the kids a week every year. Trust me: keeping Megan for a week was a joy. But it wasn't easy. One year they kept her for ten days. When we returned, my very loving-but-haggard mother hugged us and said, "I think I'm a seven-day grandma." (A story lives on in our family of the day Megan wore my mom out during that ten-day stint. She called a good friend and told her that if she'd come keep Megan for half an hour she'd pay her $100,000,000.) I can't tell you what those weeks meant to our marriage, since life with Megan rarely gave us restful time together. It's not that we planned it this way. As Robert Frost said, "Way leads to way." We took one road and then another and then another. And now our folks are in their late sixties, and we're wishing we'd had more time together through the years. Would love to be an uncle-in-residence to Crista, Van, Tatum, Kari, Madison, and Hunter (from my side -- not counting, of course, my buddy Jantsen, my brother's son, who died in 1999), and Daniel, Caleb, Hannah, Benjamin, Joshua, Darrin, Abby, Brady (from Diane's side -- along with Sarah, Rebekah, and Elizabeth who live here). Probably many of you are separated from family. I hope you're working at it as hard as my parents have to stay in touch.