Watercolor happy family

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

As the holidays approach, I’ve been giving some thought to “family.”

My birth-family was very small. My mom had one brother and one sister. Her brother never had children and her sister had two daughters. My dad had one brother and his brother had two daughters and a son.

Getting into spouses’ siblings is irrelevant. I don’t know them or if they had progeny. Several years ago, I did meet some of their nieces and nephews at funerals, but I’m not in touch with any.

I have two brothers. One died from suicide. The other lives in town but rarely gets in touch. I’m in contact with his step-daughter more than I am with him. It’s as much my fault as his. An effort has to be made on both sides.

I’ve lost contact with all but one of my cousins. The two on my mother’s side have dropped off the face of the earth. I’m in touch with the eldest of the three on my dad’s side.

And that’s it for my relatives.

I’m realizing more and more that while relatives might be considered by most to be family, sometimes they are only part of a bloodline. Genealogy can tell me about bloodlines. Only I can decide about family.

When I was younger, I had friends whose parents wanted us to call them “aunt” and “uncle.” My mom didn’t like that. I called them Mr. & Mrs. O to my mom, and Uncle Bill and Aunt Dottie to them. Mom was ok with that.

In college, my parents moved from our hometown and I was still there attending university. That’s when I began to realize that I gathered a group of nearest and dearest. They became family. They had my six and I had theirs. These were the people who knew me better than anyone else, except for my mom.

Over the years and through many transitions, I gather family. Membership is never stagnant. It is a living thing, and like any living thing, it breathes.

People pass through. We sometimes have to say “goodbye for now,” but they are always welcome if they come back. There’s always a place at the table and a space reserved for them in my heart. There’s always room for more because the heart is limitless. Mom, dad, Dan are there still, even though they’re dead. Kathy, Judy, Deb, Beth are there even though I haven’t seen them in years. Scott, even though we don’t stay in touch. That’s just naming a bare handful. They are all still my family.

So as the holidays approach, I might or might not have somewhere to go with people of common faith and traditions to celebrate with me, but I do have family.

Christmas tree

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Mom and Dan together

With Dan’s birthday three days away, I’ve been thinking about Mom and Dan. I’ve been thinking about them a lot and two thoughts have occurred to me.

First, they have given me my new mantra: Not to worry; a good rain will take care of that. I’ll use it after the mantra I stole from “Miss Congeniality:” Dali Lama, Dali Lama, Dali Lama.

Last August, as I scattered their ashes, I was once again hit with the realization that cremains are not like fireplace ashes. When Dan was cremated, some of his ashes were set aside for me to place with Mom’s once she was gone. (Yes, her wishes, not Dan’s, but I don’t think he’d be upset. I don’t think he thought of the possibility.) The rest were scattered by his executor and friend, Harley. I wasn’t in Kansas City when it was done, so it didn’t occur to me that, unlike fireplace ash, cremains don’t just melt away. Continue reading

Last goodbye

I’ve always been one for symbolism, patterns and signs from the cosmos. When the stars align, everything feels “right.”

Of course, mom was there when I took my first breath. That I was there for her last and it was just the two of us at the end, felt right.

So, scattering mom’s ashes on my birthday felt logical, natural, symbolic, and “right.”  We said our first “hello” on the day of my birth; today, we said our last goodbye.

Mom has been set free, scattered where she requested. I kept my promise.

Oreo Speedwagon

I saw this cartoon on Facebook. It got me thinking about mom and her misunderstanding of lyrics she’d heard. It started with CCR’s “There’s a Bathroom on the Right” (“There’s a Bad Moon on the Rise”), through Jimmy’s ” ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” (” ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky), all the way up to 3DD “F*ck Me Like That” (“If I could Be Like That.”)

She couldn’t understand The Song That Ate The World — a.k.a. “Smooth” — so I was reciting the lyrics as Rob was singing them. She accused me of making them up. I told her if I had made those up, I would be driving a nicer car.

Which leads to the cartoon. I still don’t know why I was talking music to her, but silly me, I was. I said something about Michael Stipe and his classic Muppets appearance. I said that I have always liked Stipe and his music.

Mom: I thought he was that guy you don’t like from the band you don’t like.

Me: You’re thinking of Scott Stapp and Creed. Michael Stipe is from REM.

Mom: Oh, I know that band. REM Speedwagon.

Me: Mom, please. Let’s not do this.