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

As we near the 11th anniversary

I was at the doctor’s office the other day, sitting in the waiting room and … you know … waiting. There were two men talking. One got up and went in for his appointment. The other gentleman started to talk to me.

As it turns out, this man graduated two years ahead of me. That means we both have the reunion coming up. That also means he graduated is Dan’s class. And, of course, he knew Dan. Quite well, actually. As he was called into the office, he asked me to tell Dan “hello” the next time I talk to him.

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Christmas past

One of my fondest Christmas memories took place in my early teen years. The whole family was in my parents room watching TV one Christmas Eve. I kept hearing this noise in the next room. It sounded like we had a mouse. I mentioned it, but no one else had heard it.

A few minuets later, I heard it again. Again, no one heard it. The third time it happened, I got up to investigate. My brother Scott said he heard it and it was bats in the attic. Unlikely, I said. Bats hibernate in the winter. Even if there were any up there at this time of year, they would be asleep. I did what any self-respecting, bat-loving little sister would do. I demanded he prove it.

Scott, being certain I would chicken out, started to head to the attic stairs. Mom, being certain I wouldn’t chicken out, told Scott not to take me up there because I might get hurt.

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Try, try again

Dear Dan,

I don’t know what was going on today, but the world conspired against my making the trip. Was that you?

By the time the computer was ready, it was almost 9:30. Then I went to get into the elevator but there was something wrong. I pressed the call button, heard the elevator arrive, but the doors didn’t open. I pressed two more times before the doors opened. I got in and the doors wouldn’t close. I pushed the button two more times and still nothing. At that point I got out. I was afraid the doors would close and the car wouldn’t go anywhere. Then I could spend all day trapped in an elevator!

I called my injured co-worker and she said that I should wait until Monday. The weather will be better; I’ll have the computer. I will also be able to leave earlier and maybe spend some time with her before her PT session and I have to turn around and drive back.

So let’s wash rinse and repeat for Monday. Okay, Danno?
Happy birthday again, my brother. I love you.