Family is one of my most precious commodities. The holidays always seem to make me feel nostalgic and crave my family ever more. I am the oldest child and I considered myself rather close to my siblings and my parents. The Chad used to harass me about cutting the umbilical cord to my mother when she and I would partake in our monthly conversations while living in Albuquerque. Looking back, I see this was awkward for him as he was not close to either of his parents growing up, while I was close to much of my family. I see being close to my family as a way of honoring God, by honoring my family I am doing what feels right in my heart and in the eyes of the Lord.
My Mom and Dad, we talk rather frequently either on the phone, via text or I try to stop in and visit when I can. I suppose I am doing as the Lord has asked, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) My father and I have a beautiful rekindled relationship. We were never very close, but today we are and he is such a strength and light in my life. He brought me an amazing wisdom professionally and lifts me up personally. I have found great knowledge in learning more about myself by interacting with him, learning from him and learning to be a better mother, wife.
I am rather close to my grandmother, my father’s mother. She is someone I look up to on many levels. A fighter, a prayer warrior, God fearing woman and lady. She is always well kept, adorned with jewelry, the lightest touch of rouge, and I can always smell a new perfume on her. Her perfumes are the one thing I vied for as a young girl, she hooked me on the classic Lauren by Ralph Lauren circa 1978.
One afternoon this past November I had the most priceless opportunity to spend almost an entire day with my grandmother. Her home still smelled as it did when I was a child, while the dwelling and it’s locale completely different through the years, the smell remains the same. We swapped a few stories and then I sat like I did as a young girl, entranced in her many parables of love through the ages. Tears began to sweep across my face as she spoke so candidly and lovingly of my grandfather. I could still smell a hint of my grandfather in this new house as we discussed his antics. A warm, earthy, musky scent that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. The smell was comforting in spite of my feelings. I felt an emptiness as we both paused, his presence and lack thereof was so heavy and grand, the true patriarch of our family.Â Despite his passing I know my relationship meant that much more to visit my grandmother, to honor my grandfather, to honor her. His passing would not suggest that we have any less of a relationship.
Imagining a life without family and extended family would not behoove me. Confusion waves over me as I attempt to understand family who choose a distant life; to not have a close relationship, to be out of touch, estranged. The Chad and I have family who are not engaged in our family, they choose to not be active participants and rarely if ever keep in touch. I struggle deeply with these family members choice to be absent, more over to be absent from my children’s lives. Such a deep loss to miss out on watching these young people grow, evolve, and come into their own. I could not fathom a life devoid of generations of family, the stories, the experiences, missing their love and friendships.
I suppose had life been that way for them during their younger years, that the cycle of being with kin would be continued. Maybe I am the exception; to have had the opportunity to spend so much of my youth with a great deal of my family that I am in tune with them on many levels, through generations, and now with my children’s engagement in the same fashion.
Christmas Eve was indicative of the various lifetimes, spanning the ages through storytelling, reminiscent of my former childhood. My aunts and uncles were swapping stories of years past. Suddenly I was transported to a time where I could recall this same revelry as a child and a tremendous amount of joy filled my heart being with my aunts, uncles, cousins, my Dad and my grandmother. Memories danced in my head as the same laughter carried me to a time where we lit luminaries on this same cold evening. Moments flashed before me as I was of similar age to my children, adoring how my aunts and uncles were so in love with one another at such a joyous time. Laughing, joking, carousing around the Christmas tree and I watched in awe so hopeful to one day experience this same love and rejoicing in the name of our Father.
Which brings me back to why family would choose to be nonexistent in each others lives. Emptiness creeps in as I begin to imagine this life. I’m saddened by family who make such a drastic choice. I suppose in some way The Chad and I have made this choice. We chose to move to Arizona to be closer to my family and left New Mexico for the toxicity we experienced while living in that environment. Today we see that our choice was ours and was not malicious, healthy, but we see the toxicity even more so now from afar. So I find myself praying that one day the hearts of our family would be healed so they could see past their own pride to come visit as we have done for so long.
Family is such a funny thing. I never saw the mechanics of how the dynamics worked in a family. I just thought we were all one, and one for all. Yes, I suppose very fairy tale-esque of my beliefs, an optimist by heart.
As an adult I see the mechanics more clearly. I share these same dealings and workings with my children. I do not shelter them from the pain and suffering sometimes felt and inflicted by the ones we love. Maybe I share more for the simple fact that they should not be as I was, living a fairy tale of lies that family will always be present in our lives. Family isn’t always joyous, despite our best efforts.
I have faith. I have a hope that one day all our families will be able to share with one another once more. We can all celebrate again, together. Holiday’s can be spent together, with each other, carousing around dinner tables, experiencing the revelry as we trip through memories past. Or as I said, maybe I am the exception to see such a tremendous strength in the power of family, a legacy to pass on to our children and their children. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Proverbs 127:3-5)
For now I keep the faith. I never falter or get angry, more sad and disappointed, I make attempts to understand the point of view of these relatives who have made the choice to be estranged. I still honor family with cards, emails, texts and phone calls. I still reach out. My hope is that one day we can agree we have differences and embrace our differences as family, set aside our anger and our pride, to come together for the inheritance of our children and their children. Family is but our legacy.