The Fractured Family…Home for the Holidays

Then

The holidays are here!  The holidays are here, yay!  Or not?  

Holidays aren’t fun if they are fraught with anxious people waiting for them to be over, are they?  This is the first year my mom or dad are not around to share them with me.  I don’t know that I’m particularly looking forward to them, either.  It also would have been my mom’s 87th birthday on the 25th of November.  

Holidays were filled with aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa and food, lots of food!  Eleven cousins close in age to one another would run around and drive our parents crazy while they tried to play cards after dinner.  

My grandfather was definitely the patriarch of the family.  He always sat at the head of the table with his homemade jug of wine strategically placed on the floor next to him.  He loved to watch the kids run around and go wild.  I can still hear him say “let them be, they’re kids”.  My grandmother was always busy in the kitchen fixing a meal fit for royalty.  Just thinking about the food she cooked makes my mouth water!

On the downside, cleaning up after 25 people was a tedious task.  Washing the dishes seemed endless.

If they could see us now I wonder what would they say.  We were (operative word here “were”) married.  Until this year only one cousin remained married, until he passed this May.   The rest of us are married and divorced.  What in the heck happened????  Out of 11 cousins.  We all had children except for one of us.  Some of us more productive than others, my brother had 8! 

Now

You never know the hand you’re dealt until … well, divorce, death, accidents or becoming handicap.  When we are young, tragedy, death or divorce is someone else’s problem, until one or more of these events happens to us.  In the moment, our thoughts of “it will last forever” are set in stone (or so we thought).  That is, until it’s clear that forever isn’t a very long time.

This weekend, my cousin’s daughter had her baby shower.  She’s 21 years old.  As we caught up on our lives, I realized we were each dealing with loss or tragedy in our family.  For us, all of our parents had now passed and we were dealing with the loss. The closeness all but gone and replaced with politeness.  “How are the kids?  Oh, they’re fine.”  I haven’t seen you in what, 7 years.  What does a person say.  “Hey, what’s new?”

Life does take its toll!

Uncle Bob doesn’t get along with his sister’s husband, and the kids fight.  This one isn’t speaking to that one because of something that happened 20 years ago.  Your third cousin twice removed has remarried and NOBODY gets along with her new husband and step-children!  Drama, drama, drama!

Growth

I notice big change usually happens every 10 years or so for me.  It’s inevitable, circumstances beyond our control dictate future events.  We must be flexible and change with them or be left alone.  Now that we are older, maybe it’s time to pass the torch to our sons, daughters and daughter-in-laws.  Some families are in the midst of divorce or death. Some are married and have step-children.  Regardless, make room for friends, family members, spouses and in-laws.  

What was once “the” big family is now many different integrated family members and friends and friends of friends that we share our holiday table with.  Personally, I enjoy meeting new people and having conversations.  Who cares what you talk about, it’s the connections you make. Don’t make a big deal if you don’t get along with someone, make an effort to make it a memorable gathering. 

Contribute!  This is my contribution this year, aside from the pumpkin pie my son loves.  Homemade lasagna, yum!  This is three generations of tried and true ingredients passed from grandmother, to mother to me.

Take that big, giant step and put aside feelings of anger and replace them with acceptance and move on.  Enjoy this time together.  Don’t expect everybody to think like you do, it’s not going to happen.  After all life is not about the destination, it’s about our journey.  What is your journey going to be?

~Chris

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