Unlike serious writers, who make themselves write whether they’re feeling inspired or not, I tend to wait for that “zing” to strike. It usually becomes clear to me all at once what my next topic should be. This morning the zing said, “FAMILY!” So here I am, happily obliging the zing.
Hyperbole often runs rampant on holidays celebrating family, in Hallmark Cards and on social media. “Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom a girl could ask for!” “Happy anniversary to my best friend and the greatest man on the face of the earth!!!!!! I hope everyone reading this is jealous of our relationship!!!!” I’m not going to go down that road–your family may be your personal best, just as mine is to me.
And for the record, I’d like to see a more honest line of greeting cards that says something like, “You’re not perfect, and neither am I, but you’re perfect for me.” Or, “Mom and Dad, thanks for paying my student loan debt after I got the manic notion to become a minister, which I know you thought was ridiculous but watched me pursue it anyway because you love me.” I’m here to tell you that if my family didn’t accept my imperfections, I would be up shit creek. Just swimming in it, with my tummy-control, full coverage suit on and no floaties.
I don’t want to make this post about my numerous screw-ups, though. That would be a book-length list. Rather, I’d like to talk about my dear, precious family. Here goes, in snippet form:
-Did you know that my mom made a cookbook for me for my 35th birthday? First, she painstakingly copied her own favorite recipes by hand. Then she enlisted her friends and our family to contribute their own recipes and provided addressed, stamped envelopes for them to send to me. (Mail! The good kind!) I’d asked for a cookbook months before because the women in our family always get them when they get married. I didn’t know if I’d ever get one, and Mom knew that upset me, so she spent hours lovingly crafting this treasure for me. It is so precious and is just one example of how my Mom moves through life giving of herself.
-In his later years, my dad is becoming a student. His subject of study? Learning how to talk to his bipolar daughter. I am a tough one to nail down in terms of psychological needs and wants, as they change with my mood and over time. What sounds encouraging one day can send me into a tailspin the next. The challenge of communicating with me when my mood fluctuates so must feel insurmountable. Yet Dad comes back for more, over and over, wanting only to be as helpful as he can be. We struggle, but we both keep learning. I couldn’t ask for more. I love you, Dad.
-If you are lucky enough to have someone in your life who simply listens and then makes you laugh when you’re struggling, hold on tightly. My brother Mark is that person for me. A couple of weeks ago, Mark picked me up for lunch during his busy work day, because I was having “the bad thoughts.” We ate pizza, he listened, and then cracked some jokes. (Cheese and laughter might just be the magic combination against depression.) Then he took my medication hostage so I couldn’t OD on it and said I had to come to dinner at his house that night to get them back. I had a lovely night with Mark and my wonderful sister-in-law Allison, who said she was sorry I’d had a bad day, and she was glad Mark could be there for me. She takes me in stride, just like Mark does, and for that I’m so grateful.
-I have a beautiful, precious, angel buddy nephew named Cameron. He is 18 months old tomorrow! I hope I can fully express to him someday how I felt instantly connected to him on the night he was born. He looked at me so seriously, straight down into my soul. He is so loving and kind and playful, and he is very generous with his little friend Thomas. It is a joy to watch him grow.
That covers my immediate family, but there are so many more. Like…
-The original cousins: my cousin Rachael, who has always told it exactly like it is and loves me so, and cousin Mitchell, who was my partner in crime in our impromptu family musicals before Granny T passed away
-Cousin “Baby George”, who is about to embark on his adventure to Auburn University!
-Beautiful cousin Courtney, who is real and honest and brave, and my lovely cousin Ashley, who saw a different path for herself and pursued it boldly
-My cousin Kai, who moves through the world quietly and honestly
-My wonderfully soft-spoken, kind-hearted Uncle Mike and my precious Aunt Jean, who I’ve always thought of as a slightly spicier carbon copy of Mom
-My frank, generous Aunt Deb, with whom I’ve had many profound conversations and laughs
-My incredibly giving Uncle George and tender-hearted Aunt Lisa
-My wonderfully saucy and lion-hearted Uncle Don and my beautiful, generous Aunt Barbara
-Last but not least, my wise soulmate Uncle Mike and my Aunt Mary, my fellow introvert who’s not afraid to speak the truth
If I’ve forgotten anyone, I can only plead the hour of the morning and my self-imposed caffeine restriction.
For me–squirrelly, imperfect me–it just doesn’t get any better than this. My family makes me happy. They love me with full, generous hearts. I hope you have at least one person in your family who makes you feel the way I do about mine, and if you don’t, I hope you find people who become your good family. We weren’t meant to be alone, and I can’t begin to know what I’d do if I were without these incredible people. I love you, family.