I have THE greatest family. I know that we all think that we have the best, but I can prove it. You all have wonderful families, but mine rocks like you would not believe.
To begin with, I’m very close to my immediate family. I spend time with my parents nearly every day, and am so thankful for their influence in my children’s lives. I talk with my brother, who lives in another area of the country, very often. I keep up on what his children are doing, and he keeps up on mine. We never miss a holiday , and in fact, he used to call my children at the MINUTE that they were born on their birthday. (Luckily, all have been born during daylight hours)
But the larger picture, my extended family, that’s where it gets really amazing. I know my cousins – and their wives – as well as most people know their own siblings. We have a secure family website where we are able to share pictures and news, chat, and keep current contact information. There are a group of about 10-12 of us that regularly log on (some of us multiple times per day…you know who you are!) to see what everyone is up to. We live in all corners of the country, and rarely are together all at one time, but that doesn’t matter.
Last fall, I took a trip to see my Grandmother, shortly after I was laid off of work. A family of cousins were getting together at the Cheesecake Factory for lunch, to celebrate one of the sisters’ birthdays, and they invited us to join them. What was so remarkable about this lunch is there was no uncomfortable chit chat, you know, “So, where is it that you live? How old are your kids these days? Do you still scrapbook?” We know the answers to all of those questions! We just jumped in to conversation as if we had lived next door all of these years.
I had to remind myself that even though I see their children frequently, and know their accomplishments, quirks, and activities, they do not necessarily know me. I was so excited to see a little guy that is particularly hilarious. I wanted to just squish him and kiss him. It was odd to think that I knew him so well, and yet, he wasn’t sure who I was! I had to back off until he got used to me. Our older children are well informed, however, and my kids can name all six of the second cousins that live in the South, even though they have only seen them once or twice…and that was when they were little. It is always so fun to hear what our children say when they see pictures of their extended family, and to know that they understand and appreciate the whole stinking lot of them! Recently, some of the teenage cousins are joining Facebook, and it is so much fun to be able to communicate with them. It is almost unheard of to know your parents cousins, much less have a relationship with them.
When I was in the hospital on bedrest, hoping that my baby would be developed well enough when it was time to deliver him, they were my lifeline. I would post updates on the website, and I got words of encouragement and love. They prayed for me. They called, they talked to me on Instant Messenger. One of my cousins was in medical school at the time, and his wife assured me that my doctors were doing everything right, according to her doctor spouse. We have attorneys in the family, who advise on legal matters. We have a veterinarian who offers his expertise. We have photographers who have pushed the rest of us to up our game. We share recommendations on products and services, and those who have been through something before are always ready to talk you through it. No matter what you need advice on, encouragement for, or need to vent about, there is someone to help.
“Prayers, please!” is a common topic on our news board. We have become incredibly comfortable with one another, enough to share our fears and ask for help. That is powerful. Just feeling comfortable enough to admit that our lives are not perfect, and that we do indeed need the assistance of others is an empowering concept. It opens us up to feel the great love and concern that others have for us. And our prayers have been heard, and answered. Hospitalizations, threats of financial issues, health concerns, parenting struggles, it all is posted and ALWAYS treated with respect and support.
We have suffered loss and shared in the experience. We have all yearned for the return of a soldier cousin serving in Iraq. We have cried for the loss of a precious baby, born too soon. The night that a cousin’s husband was killed in a motorcycle accident, we all came to our website to console one another and find comfort. Within hours, we had arranged to provide a bouquet from the cousin group at the funeral, and we had posted expressions of our support, encouragement, and love. We have listened as one or another has struggled, and suffered with them. We don’t turn our backs when the going gets whiny! I’ve tested that one, to be sure, with my whining this past few months, but they have always – ALWAYS – been supportive.
We have celebrated for one another. We anxiously await pictures after any big event in someone’s life…the return of our soldier, a new baby, a graduation. We have cheered for first time home buyers, and are proud of the accomplishments of our collective children. After the baby was born, I used my laptop and camera to upload pictures of him, only seconds out of the womb, within 3 hours of his birth.
We have inside jokes, we laugh at things that no one else would understand. We support our grandmother, who lost my grandpa several years ago. We post news about her, pictures if someone visits, and we remind one another to keep in touch with her. We share family history.
We reach out…we go the extra mile. One cousin photoshopped my head on Demi Moore’s pregnant body on the cover of a magazine when I was expecting the baby. When one cousin was unable to get mascara that she liked when they lived in a remote area, we made sure that she got it. Every day, I see these amazing, incredible people doing more and more to strengthen our family and each other.
Tonight, I received an email from a cousin that is as interested in family history as I am. She had taken the names from some of the headstones that I had written about, and tried to find answers for me. She found an obituary of one, and the death record of the twins that I had wondered about. It appears that they died of gastroenteritis...a tummy bug of some sort. Finding answers to my wonderings, and helping me to tie up the loose ends on my uplifting experience.
See? I have the best family in the world!