I refrain from delving into stories about my extended family much because, well, quite honestly it’s an exhausting and complicated web to untangle before most listeners/readers. My immediate family is simple – me, my husband, our daughter, and my mom and dad. My mother and father-in-law are part of my immediate family too, but I don’t talk about them much on this blog because my father-in-law’s estranged ex-wife (and bio mom to my husband) frequently reads these posts and I’ve solemnly promised not to divulge any of his business here for her to see (I TOLD YOU, FAMILY IS COMPLICATED).
With that being said, I want to explain something about family, regardless of how complicated yours may also be. Our family is evidence of what we come from. To many, that doesn’t matter much because they may be ashamed of where they come from. They may not like the circumstances they come from. Poverty, abuse, and religious practices and traditions are all details. They do not have to define you unless you allow them to. They also don’t have to define your family, unless you want them to.
If left alone on this earth to start anew and construct new traditions, habits, and ways of being, whether you like it or not, you’ll likely look toward what you were told or shown when you were growing up in order to do that. Some of those habits may not be good ones – we don’t necessarily want to carry on a tradition of alcoholism or violence if there’s a history there – but even the most afflicted members of our family still have something to offer us as we piece together the history that brought us into being. Even my uncle on drugs had a generous, caring heart up until the day he was killed. My alcoholic aunt will always be a pioneer on the nursing front in the state of Florida as being one of the first women here to ever be granted a nursing license, despite being turned away multiple times due to the color of her skin. My paternal grandmother didn’t always make the best decisions, but she knew to keep the piece of land that her mother-in-law bought at the turn of the 20th century at a time when women, let alone women of color, weren’t typically able to do so.
My aunt Patricia said it best to me on the phone this morning. She told me that her philosophy on seeing and communicating with family is, “I would rather make the effort to come see you when you’re alive than wait until you’re dead. I hate going to funerals – they’re not occasions to pull together for. Pull together, scrape up some cash, and make the effort for a living person, not a dead one.” Auntie Pat you are so right!
When people die, that’s it. We don’t get a say in the matter, we can’t fight it, it can’t be reversed. The finality of death is major. Instead of fighting death, I’m going to make an effort to fight through misunderstanding and differences while the people I care about are alive. I’ll probably have to apologize for some things I’m really not to blame for, but that’s neither here nor there. The bottom line is, I don’t want to look back on the relationships I have with my remaining family members, ones who it’s safe for me to have a relationship with, and feel remorse over not doing more after they’ve passed away. Perhaps this will teach my daughter something positive as well. I also plan to leave her this photo, because pictured here with me are two people I desperately long to have back in my life, but their time was cut drastically short.