Orange County Register — North County News-Tribune; Date: Oct. 3, 2019; Section: News; Page Number: A2
WHAT A DAY
What is family if not what you make it?
One of the little known facts about me is that I have over fifty first cousins, just on my dad’s side. He was one of twelve children. Each of them, except for my dad, had at least five kids. Dad had only me and my brother.
His family must have thought he was a slacker.
The unfortunate thing about this fact is that I know almost none of them. The one cousin I had the most contact with moved and didn’t leave a forwarding address.
At least, she didn’t leave one for me.
This fact of life resonated with me last weekend, when my family drove to Sacramento for a friend’s wedding. I’ve known the bride since she was six years old. For the past 17 years, I’ve watched her grow, sometimes struggle, and work hard to put her life together.
She has suffered traumatic losses, first her father, and then her older sister, both from cancer. Her older sister was Marcus’ age, which hit me particularly hard.
After everything I’ve seen her go through, I marvel at her strength.
Their wedding date was not convenient for me. It was the weekend I’m usually teaching writing workshops in Irvine. I’ve taught these workshops every year for a few years, and I love to spend time talking shop with my peers.
But I gave it up for my friend. She found a darling young man to grow old with, and I had to be there to celebrate. If I was there in the bad times, I had to show up for the good times.
After the wedding, a group of us visited some area breweries to relax. The group consisted of us older adults plus our grown-up children. It was a treat to be able to spend time with Marcus and the rest of the twenty-somethings.
I sat next to one young friend, who had just gotten engaged. He had been to several weddings this year, as had his fiancée. They watched the stress and the drama of putting a wedding together, and decided they’d rather elope, then throw a party.
It’s pretty stressful for me to throw a party, but I kept my mouth shut. Maybe the young folk are better at planning a menu than I am.
“I would not be offended to not witness the ceremony,” I assured him. “But I’d love to be invited to the celebration.”
“Of course.” He smiled. “I don’t have a lot of relatives, like my fiancée has. I consider you guys to be my family.”
And there it was. I looked around the table and saw people I’ve spent vacations and holidays with. I’ve watched their kids grow from infancy into adulthood. If they call me for help, I’m there. Are they blood family?
Do they have to be?
I do have cousins back in Illinois, whom I stay in touch with via social media. When I visit, I try to schedule time to see them. Even though we spent most of our adult years apart, we grew up together.
We’ve forged a bond through our history.
I suppose the most important thing for me is to have that human connection. There are two things I have to do alone in this life—be born, and die. In between, it’s nice to look around and see familiar faces.
Longtime Placentia resident Gayle Carline tracks those moments that shape her days as a wife, mom, computer whiz and horsewoman. E-mail her at [email protected].