Sometimes a commercial holiday can be beneficial in triggering us (me) to think about its particular theme, such as Valentine’s Day being about Love. While I’ve been truly blessed to spend parts of the day with a devoted husband and loving children and grandchildren, many thoughts about love today centered on those I’ve not seen in years…members of my family of origin.
I may have mentioned this in an earlier writing, about being the oldest of five siblings and leaving home (and the state) when I was 19. I traded the Midwest for the West Coast and an early marriage. My three brothers and one sister were all still in school; the two youngest were still in grade school as they are 11 and 12 years younger than me. Not only were we years apart in age and maturity, but as a result of my moving away, I never really knew them as individuals. I still don’t.
Life being what it was, I rarely went back to visit, but I did make the effort a few times over the years and am glad I did. There were no big family reunions. My parents didn’t travel or take big vacations. My mom has never visited my home. It took nearly 40 years before my dad finally came to see where I lived. He stayed for five weeks. That was one of the most special, sharing events of my life. We now have conversations several times a week.
That’s not true for my siblings, however. Our interests and lifestyles are vastly different. We live in three or four different states with one or two having outdated addresses or no interest in making contact. I talk with one brother once or twice a year; another every couple of years; and the third maybe once a decade. I’m not sure where my sister is living or how to reach her. Even if I did, I’m not sure it’d be a good idea; she doesn’t seem to like me much.
The few conversations shared amongst the five of us over the years have been about feelings of abandonment, jealousy over the distribution of family possessions, reliving early childhood memories or family celebrations, catching up on where our adult children are living or how many grandchildren we have, what to do about aging parents, and hoping everyone is able to stay working and caring for themselves sufficiently for as long as possible. Not the healthiest types of relationships, to say the least.
While we share family bloodlines, it seems rather strange to declare real “love” for people I hardly know. Frankly, we’ve all had such separate lives for so long, it feels quite artificial to initiate any kind of meaningful relationship now…and yet I feel such a deep sense of loss. It may be time to try again.
I don’t regret leaving home at a young age. (My father actually encouraged me to go.) I like the person I’ve become through the experiences Life provided. My world is full of love from a blended and extended step-family, children, grandchildren, and friends. I promote regular family gatherings with our children and insist we communicate and share in each other’s lives. I want them to know the importance of such family connections…to learn about one another as adult individuals…to experience family love with their brothers and sisters. Maybe, someday, I will, too.