If there’s one thing I really know about, it’s family… well, that and proper grammar. I have a thing about proper grammar.
Right now, though, it’s family. As my parents get ready to move 12 and a half hours south, away from 95% of their family, away from where they grew up, and, most importantly, away from me, I’ve begun thinking about how much I’m going to be missing. Sure, I’m finally gaining that true independence that comes with not having your parents’ home to run to on a stressful weekend that I know I’ll be proud of once I learn to survive it, but comfort will not be the same.
At least… that’s what I first thought until I realized that one cousin lives exactly three blocks from my apartment. Two others live just a half hour in another neighborhood on the edge of the city. Not to mention the aunt just one or two neighborhoods away, the two other aunts back in my hometown, and a few more uncles and cousins around, too. Damn, we’re everywhere in the Greater Boston Area. I’ll never be alone.
We are all SO different, and so weird in our own little ways, but that’s what actually keeps our bond strong. Weird runs through our veins. It runs in the family. It connects us. Our quirks make us the funniest people you’ll ever know… at least in our opinion. We’ve shared hard times, we’ve shared the joy that comes with even more marriages and babies, but most of all we’ve shared more laughs in one evening than many people experience in a month. Or 2 months. Or 6. I almost had beer come out my nose at one family party I was laughing so hard; imagine the pain. We talk over each other, which has come to be seen as an endearing quality in our eyes. With a story-telling Grampa who fathered 11 children, resulting in 20 grandchildren, and so far 4 great-grandchildren with 2 on the way, it’s hard to get even a murmur of agreement into a conversation. My aunts and uncles had to eat in shifts because they didn’t have the table space, so when the food is ready it’s a mad rush. Maureen’s meatballs are to die for. Martha makes the best apple pie, and even if you don’t like coleslaw, you eat Grampa’s. Mark thinks he can really cut a rug and Matt is the only quiet one. And in case you haven’t figured it out, the 11 children all have names that begin with M. We’re all 20-30 minutes late. Most of us have the same grey-blue eyes of my late grandmother. We know we’re not 100% Irish, but we’re mostly Irish, dammit, and that’s all that matters. What we have in common will never break us.
It’s come to my realization that we’re pretty much all flabbergasted when we find out that many people aren’t nearly as close to their families as we are or how rarely they see them. And trust me, we’re far from perfect, we get in tiffs, we annoy each other, frustrate each other, and rarely agree with each other, but overwhelming compassion, a good heart, and a strong sense of humor run so deeply in this family that at the end of the day nothing will ever matter more than the qualities we share, the values we share, and the love that we share. I don’t think any of us have played it so safe that we haven’t lived. We take life one step at a time, or one leap at a time if the situation prevents itself, because we know we have each other to fall back on. I have that to fall back on. We have that confidence and curiosity. It runs in the family.
You may have a small family, a large family, a distant family, or a close family. You may have both between your paternal and maternal sides. Or, maybe your family is not blood related, but the kind you accumulate through your life and shared experiences. If it’s one thing I know, it’s to love them, and cherish them, and treat them with compassion. Sometimes that means tough love. Sometimes that means giving them your undivided attention. Sometimes that means to laugh with them. Sometimes that means to cry with them. Life is both laughter and tears, and family is there through it all. I will never take mine for granted, and I hope you don’t, either. It’s the most important kind of love and the strongest support in the world. It runs in the family.