Friday, September 19, 2014

"It's all in the family"

There is a special bond between blood relatives… Be it the sharing of DNA, of shared history, or faces that look alike .  Families inherit certain ways of talking, behaviors and mannerisms. Learned prejudices, animosities, and expectations can ripple through many generations.  ( Its curious to think that some of my own ways of thinking and doing things have probably passed down from earlier generations long ago…) I know of families that dearly love each other and I know families so torn with conflict that Thanksgiving dinner is a conflict zone. I know of husband and wife families that have been together 60 years, and complicated families with complicated merged families. But when its all said and done the family connection remains.

The universal family

Sunday family dinners were a frequent part of my early childhood  - either with the family of my fathers brother or the family of my mothers sister, often including other non relatives.  I remember these gatherings with pleasure – family stories told and enjoyed, talk of current politics and world events, laughter and sharing of good times. There was cousins to play with, usually a special meal and good dessert… Sometimes in the late afternoon we might make ice cream together or gather around the piano to sing together – especially with my Mothers sister and husband…  
Make a family tree!
There were aunts and uncles from far away who would come to stay for a few days – with the touch of the exotic about them – they might be from Nebraska, Idaho, or far off California.  That was special.  Both my father and mother came from large families which led to a lot of relatives to keep track of.  Letters from far away were read to the whole family and discussed.

Today I feel blessed with close connected with my wife.  my two sons, and my sister... thank goodness for electronic communication with those who live at some distance.

Over my life, with moving and deaths, other  family relation groups have ebbed and flowed. At times, it was easier to meet regularily with some individuals – and more distant once less often.  In some cases there has been no real break in communication – but certain people drift away and after a while it is difficult to know how to reconnect. People change – different beliefs, political parties, social identify… and then it can become a challenge to know now to begin again.

At the present moment my closest extended family isn’t even blood related.  My wife’s extended family  lives mostly on the west coast– but we see each other often.  They may not be genetic kin, but I like them and but they like me  – we are most certainly family.  The people in my church community – people of all ages – form a shared relationship group that has much in common with a blood family.  We care for each other and support each other in times of joy and difficulty.  We share a close relationship that has grown over the years.

Extended family

Still I miss the special bond of the large extended blood relatives that used to gather Sunday afternoons in my youth.  There is something quite remarkable about those who are kin – who know the same people and places, who know the same family stories, family history, family photos.
Phone calls and e mail are a boon to maintaining connection. Facebook is great too.  I greatly enjoy my frequent phone chats with my first cousin who lives near the family farm in Kansas.

My country grade school
He is my only living connection with the people and land where I grew up – I love being reminded of the people that made up my life as a child.  We can both remember his mother's fried chicken and gravy, the story of Uncle John using dynamite to get past cap rock when digging a well, the storm that blew over the big cottonwood tree, picking mulberries from their big tree... and so much more.

Uncle Joes farm - storage buildings where I played as a child, when we visited
Country Post office where my father had a rural delivery route
This last year, thanks to the internet.  I made connection with two distant relatives – in both cases – their grandmother and my Zlatnik grandmother were sisters…. ( I could compute how much DNA we have in common but it would make my head spin to do so…).  I think we are second cousins of some sort… One woman lives in the Czech Republic, the other lives on the East Coast of the US – and they did not know of each other.  Its funny when I made the connection I felt an immediate connection with these two women – because . after all. “they were family”.

Like my family tree

In the texture of my life – I value my family connections.  Whether we agree on every issue or not there is a relationship that matters.