This life is going by so fast that we can easily lose many of the things that make life worthwhile. Of these, extended family is often one thing that we casually let slip away.
One hundred years ago, this would have been your inside circle. In fact, this was the case in my family 25 years ago. I grew up with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, the cousin whose cousin turns out to be your best friend. We stayed up until 3 a.m. playing while the adults played cards and talked about everyone they knew. They were knitting their family tight together, holding each other as close friends, learning and loving each other. I love this pic of my parents at their 50th with his siblings and in-laws that says it all…
And then the children grew up…we moved out…the siblings stayed connected, and some close cousins stayed friends, but overall, those connections became tendrils when our grandparents’ and parents’ passed. The relationships seem harder to maintain now. Somehow, I keep being informed by the outside world that I am too busy to be doing something as ridiculous as playing cards with my family until the wee hours of the morning. I have metaphoric bacon to earn, after all!
So it came as a bit of a surprise when my cousin invited me to her wedding. There was a gift in this invitation, a simple pushing out of my boundaries to re-include a number of family members I hadn’t seen in years. When you say to someone “it’s been too long” and they recount the last two times they saw you as “the funeral” (my dad’s) six years ago, and “high school” 20+ years ago, you realize that weddings and funerals are no longer sufficient to connect people who by all accounts should already be connected.
Most importantly, I spent some quality time with my sister and brother-in-law, having coffee and some snacks at Tim’s (because we are Canadian, and that’s where you go). We talked about what we value, what we believe, what we like. Though we went different ways in our lives, we still ended up with similar core values and a sense of what it means to be connected in this life. These two are a shining example of what marriage is, about love, and building, and re-building, and the sacrifice of wanting for the other rather than the self. When my brother-in-law talks about paying off his house so his wife can stay home and pursue her art, you understand what it means to love beyond yourself in a way that is so rare to experience. The moment changed me. Or rather, it found me.
I declare this summer to be the summer of reconnection. There are three weddings, a 30th wedding anniversary (theirs), a 50th birthday (my brother’s) and my 5th wedding anniversary. There are a dozen other reasons to find connections with the people that you have allowed to lapse, and I will find every one of them. The loss of my parents in their early 70s has taught me that life is not guaranteed and waiting for retirement to get back to what is important is not what life is about. When I think about how I want my life to be, I have to constantly remind myself that my life is not a future event, it is a present one and it begins with what I do now.