Remember the TV series entitled “Family Ties”?
I don’t have many of those. The reasons are varied, some known to me, others still (and might remain) buried deep inside the footlocker of my family’s history. But those issues are not my point here.
Recently I attended the funeral of an uncle, my mother’s older brother. At that coming together of friends and family to honor his memory and life, I met relatives that I didn’t know until the introductions were made that day. They are not distant kin, either; they are the children of my first cousin, the cousin I lived with my senior year in high school.
Where have we been the rest of our lives?
Family isn’t always blood, either, right? I also ran into–quite literally–one of my best friends from that same senior year. Heaven knows, there aren’t many of those for me, military brat that I was. She and I hadn’t had any contact since then. Almost 50 years ago.
Once we arrived at the gravesite for the service that day, my cousin pointed out our grandparents’ resting place, right next to that of this same uncle’s wife. My aunt, one of my favorite people ever. And this was the first time I had even seen their resting places, or even known where they were. I hadn’t attended their funerals, a fact that shames me now.
Even sadder is that this familial amnesia continues for my adult daughter. She has little knowledge of these family members, something I would love to rectify with a road trip soon. A long one, to be sure, but better late than never.
Family ties have significance far beyond this moment, the one when we’re angry at a member of the group or are separated in other ways. They connect us to a tribe, a ready-made, hopefully well-nurtured, soft place to fall in times of trouble. These sturdy strings were never knitted together for me or my siblings. But it is up to me to get busy and start picking up the loose ends, don’t you think?
“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” ~Erma Bombeck