Sunday, July 29, 2018

Make An Effort

Published in the Miami News-Record July 27, 2018

Mom and I have had the conversation on several occasions, but this week I have thought about it a lot. Anyone who knows me or reads my blog or this here column knows that family is utmost for me. Without my family I’d be so very lost. The tragedy that happened in Branson was devastating on so many levels, but the woman who lost her entire family just keeps staying in the forefront of my mind these days. Kady and I were talking about it a day or two after it happened and how the woman was brave and composed enough to give a television interview. I told Kady there’s no way I could’ve been so brave and I’d just be curled up in a ball wondering how I would go on. And Kady’s reply brought tears to my eyes: “Mom, I’d be dead. There is no way I could survive without you guys. I literally would not be able to go on. My heart would be so broken.” I’m so glad I’ve instilled this family connection in my childrenalthough her answer crushed me. Those are the things we just don’t like to think about. And for one family last week, it became a sad, stark reality. 

I had the opportunity to visit with a cousin last Saturday and as he hugged me so tight he asked, “What happened to our family? Why aren’t we close anymore?” And the best thing I could come up with was: “We let it happen.” When you’re little you have gatherings and holidays at your grandparents’ house with your many, many cousins (first, second, third, removed, step, whatever) and life is good. Then you start growing up and becoming a parent and sadly, grandparents start passing and the whole family dynamic starts to shift. Suddenly your parent is the grandparent everyone gathers with and cousins do the same with their parents and well….it just kind of fizzles out. Sure, you still love them and when you do see them the stories are recounted and laughter abounds, but it’s all just different now. 

Most families aren’t perfect. If yours is, well, I hope you’re not too bored. Because my crazy, imperfect, dysfunctional family is what keeps me going. Whether it’s phone calls where you and your sister laugh so hard your husband has to turn up the TV, text conversations where your mother repeatedly falls prey to autocorrect and you screenshot everything because you know you’ll go back to it and laugh again later when you’re having a bad day, or the wild, loud dinners and game nights that mean you *will* go home with a laugh headache and no mascara left and oh, the memories – those are the things that make a family close. But those things don’t happen if you don’t put forth the effort. If you sit around and wait for the next funeral for all the cousins to gather, number one, I personally always feel sorta guilty for laughing so much with all the cousins in the midst of sadness (although in my family, usually the deceased would probably appreciate a good round of laughter and togetherness even at their expense), and number two, you shouldn’t really just sit round and wait for a funeral to happen. Just saying. That’s kind of weird, dude.

So yes, it requires you making a few phone calls and a few plans, maybe rearranging your calendar a little bit, but maybe it’s time to call up a cousin or seven and tell stories about your great-grandma’s love of tea tree oil, listen to the recording of her voice telling the bear story, whip of a batch of your Nana’s homemade noodles and drink Coke in wine glasses for old time’s sake. And most importantly, embrace the wonderful, the related, the skeletons, the bruises, bumps, and scratches and just do what families are supposed to do: love each other.

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