This week’s column

Orange County Reg­is­ter — North County News-Tribune; Date: Oct. 3, 2019; Sec­tion: News; Page Num­ber: A2

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].

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