Sunday, February 17, 2013

Family

I spoke with #1Son  on the phone yesterday.  After we had hung up, I thought a great deal about what he had to say.  He spoke about family and about the importance of family.  He recounted the story of a movie that he and his significant other had seen at the Park City Film Festival about the strength of a family that came together after a tragedy hit one of the family members.  He spoke of how he wants to make sure he gives that kind of family experience to his own children.

Later in the day, as I sat down to write in my journal, I realized that exactly 47 years ago I had first met the man who would become the father of my children.  My children's father and I officially met when he was transferred into the same department where I was working at the IRS Service Center in Ogden, Utah.  We both had started our jobs on the same day just two days prior to the day we officially met.  In fact, we both were hired at the same time because we both scored the exact same score on the civil service exam.  Our supervisor told us that we had tied for the highest score on the exam.  This meant that we both had to be placed before the others who had taken the exam could be placed in the jobs that were available.  

On that day when we first met, he walked me to the parking lot after work.  I was dazzled by his smile and his personality.  We married six months later.  We began our family early.  Our first born arrived just eleven months later.  In time, we would have a total of five children in a span of ten years. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce after a decade and a half.   

Amy, Keicha, Ryan, Jonathan, Julie
Easter 1978

I never write about the break-up of our marriage in this forum.  I don't intend to start now.  I only want to acknowledge that the divorce was painful for all of us.  Our lives were forever altered.  For me, the divorce also meant that I was determined that my children would still have a strong sense of family. 
Amy, Keicha, Sally, Jonathan, Julie,
Ryan on the back of the couch


Amy, Jonathan, Julie, Keicha, Ryan
This is one of my favorite photos, but I know the girls hate it!

Parents leave legacies.  I have always hoped that the legacy I would leave would be one where my children loved and supported each other and passed on a strong love for family to their children.

It is messy to be a part of a family.  It is not always easy.  In fact, is it ever easy?  I looked up some quotes while I wrote this post.  Some are just priceless.  George Burns said, Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.  I think most of us can relate to that at one time or another.  

Our family, as with so many modern families, has changed due to divorce and remarriage.  I  found this quote by Sarah Dessen so true:   Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.  

I think of my own in-laws, the paternal grandparents of my children.  I was fortunate to have the most wonderful in-laws ever.  They have always shown love towards me and supported me.  I love them dearly.  To me, they will always be family.

I think of the former spouses of my children, and I think of Julie's boyfriend, I love them like they are my own children.  Marriages don't always work out, but that doesn't mean that one has to stop caring about the well-being of both parties.  Maybe, once one is a part of my family, I just don't let that person go. I realize that the status has changed, but in my mind, we are still family.  We share many memories.  We have a history together.  They can't get rid of me that easily.  

A day at the zoo with
Regan, Gillian, Parker, and Bridger (in stroller)
Julie, Keicha, Jonathan, Amy holding Mason, Ryan and Stephanie


Mostly, I was struck by my son's statement about the way the family in the film pulled together after tragedy.  

Keicha, Jonathan, Julie, Sally, Amy, Ryan
June 2007

This photo was shot on the occasion of my husband's retirement party.  It was one of the rare occasions when I had all five of my children together.  Those occasions are the happiest occasions of my life.  Now, one of the five is gone.  I doubt I will ever adjust to not counting five names to make sure they are all accounted for in my mind when I think of them.  I doubt I will ever stop counting when we are together to keep track of everyone.  I run through the five names and the years of their births in order to figure out how old they are.  I can't do the math unless I recall all of the dates:  1967, 1970, 1974, 1976, and 1978.  (Yes, the 70's were very busy years for me!) 

Families are rare treasures.  They can be fragile.  They can break easily.  They can be fragmented.  I don't think DNA is enough to hold a family together.  I think it takes a lot of love, a lot of forgiveness, and a lot of prayer.  When I lost my sweet Julie, the one with her arm draped around my shoulder just as she always did, I would never have survived without my remaining precious children.  I've learned how true this quote is more than once from my own children:  When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family. ~ Jim Butcher

Someday, I will be gone.  When that day comes, I hope my legacy will be one that speaks of the importance of family.  One of my greatest prayers is that my children will always stand by each other, and by each other's children, and give each other strength, hope, courage, forgiveness, and love.  I hope they will keep on laughing with each other.  We've all have had so many great times together.  We are wild and crazy together.  We love to talk, argue, and laugh.  To me, these traits are what family is all about. It takes a lot of forgiveness along the way to maintain this type love and support because none of us are perfect, but we are family.  

28 comments:

Jackie said...

This is one of the most beautiful posts I've read on the family, Sally. Your posts make me smile and cry...all at the same time.
Sending you hugs and thanking you for sharing love....

Betsy Adams said...

Hi Sally, I loved reading this about FAMILY. I only had 3 children (1963, 1970 and 1971) ---but family was/is important.

I too hope that my legacy will speak of the importance of family. I hope that my three sons can remain close --and never forget about the importance of family. Great post. Thanks! (Loved seeing the photos also.)

We've been in Arkansas this week enjoying some time at gorgeous Mt. Nebo. Hope you had a good week.

Hugs,
Betsy

lyndagrace said...

This struck a chord and hit a nerve with me all at the same time. I relate to the way you count five. I lost my son last year, he was one of my three. I still struggle when I am asked, "So do you have children?" When I answer yes, the next inevitable question is, "Oh how many?"
Sadly, it seems as though our struggle with grief has hit us like a bomb, shattering our unit into our own little bits and pieces.
Yes, families are complicated. I miss mine terribly.

Arkansas Patti said...

Such a well done post. You are so right. Pretty sure all families have their episodes of discord as well as the ones of shared love but they usually all have that "pull together" glue that binds them.
Loved the progression photos of your kids.

DJan said...

A beautifully written treatise about the importance of family, and what the makeup of family actually is: more than just being born into a family, but a heart connection that never stops growing and changing. Thank you for this lovely post, Sally.

Lynilu said...

Thank you for a lovely post. It touched me deeply. I won't go on and on about why, but let me just say that once someone is in your heart, they are there to stay. Out of sight is not out of mind once that heart connection is made.

Jeanie said...

It sounds, from the comments above, that you have been able to do a beautiful job of expressing the feelings that many of us have in our hearts about families. One of the things I am most grateful for is the relationships my children and their families have with each other.
You have indeed passed a great legacy of love of family to your children.

Sandi said...

Hi Sally, I loved this post, seeing the photographs of your precious family, growing up and laughing together. Knowing you, I have no doubt that the legacy of your love and commitment to your family will be held within each of their hearts; they will continue to be connected with their memories.

Family is fluid. It does change . . . with the addition of significant others, through marriages, and births. When there is a divorce, or a death, we don't stop loving or forget about those who participated and built memories within our family. They are forever intwined, perhaps like the roots that support our family tree.

Such a beautiful post, Sally. I'll be thinking about this today. Hugs to you, Sandi

Keicha Christiansen said...

This was a hard post for me to read. I had to keep stopping to wipe away tears. The pictures were even harder to look at. You're right, families are fluid, but just like you won't ever get over counting five heads like a mother hen, I'll never get over feeling the void left by Julie. Funny isn't it, how one person can leave such a giant void? Anyway, thank you for never allowing our sibling rivalries to become all out wars. We will always be there for each other.

Kathleen McCoy said...

I love the warmth and inclusiveness of your definition of family, Sally! Your acceptance of new spouses, boyfriends, in-laws and ex-in-laws and ex-spouses is so wonderful and so crucial to family harmony and happiness. I loved the family pictures of your five - and my heart ached for all of you once again with Julie's loss. Thank goodness your family has been such a comfort in the hardest times and such a joy every day.

Tom Sightings said...

Absolutely. Divorce shouldn't mean the end of a relationship, just a change in the relationship. We shouldn't think it has to end in hate and resentment, but ... maybe with some regret, some nostalgia, but most of all with a resolve to move on together for the benefit of the children as well as everyone else.

rosaria williams said...

A very touching post, Sally, and a beautiful anthem for keeping families whole, even when tragedy strikes. It's about healing together, putting aside differences and looking forward to tomorrows knowing you will look out for each other! This is how we heal!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I especially noticed what Keicha said: "Thank you for never allowing our sibling rivalries to become all out wars." That is a huge contribution, Mom. We have some tensions among siblings, but I was really pleased when two of my brothers' ex-wives came to my Dad's funeral two summers ago. We all got along very nicely; it made the occasion very special.

dkzody said...

You have a beautiful family. I love all these pictures, through the years, through the tears. Happiness and pain. Coming and going. It's all there. The one of the kids on the couch is just precious, as I'm sure you know since you included it with the admonition that the girls don't like it. You definitely have a legacy.

troutbirder said...

A wonderful post Sally. Now that my second son is far away my technically former daughter in law who remarried after our sons death and then divorced is still our real daughter in law. We care much for her and no doubt will count on her much in the future....

#1Nana said...

Our family is much the same. Wne've been changed by death and divorce, but are still strong. The American branch of my father's family was all together last week for my uncle's me mortal service. I am a Rayner by birth, but I sat at the service with my sister in law and my cousin's wife, who refer to themselves as not real Rayners. It's a family joke...we are all family and as we celebrated my uncles life, it was wonderful to have so much love and support. We are blessed.

A Quiet Corner said...

Family will always be FAMILY..first and foremost regardless of who is still with whom in my book!...:)JP

Dee said...

Dear Sally, this posting is so beautiful that I wish it were available to every family in the world. So its members could read it and learn from it and grow in the love and forgiveness and laughter and tragedy that you so beautiful describe. Thank you for being such a fine human being. And a wonderful mother. Peace.

Linda Myers said...

Lovely, Sally. I hope our family is like that, too.

Joyce said...

You are so right. Families are messy and complicated and fragile. This was so beautifully said...you have a lovely family.

Perpetua said...

Thank-you for this thoughtful, profound and touching tribute to the power, importance and wonderful variety of family relationships, Sally. Being new to your blog I didn't know you had lost a daughter and I'm so sorry.

Vagabonde said...

This is a moving post. I am pleased that you had family to support you in time of grief. It is certainly wonderful to have them too in time of happiness. But, you know, some people don’t have large families. My mother was an only child, my father had one sister but all the way in Egypt and I was alone too. They are all gone now. I have a second cousin left, but she lives near Paris. My husband’s family, which is not large either, is not close in either sense. So, I like to read how families are helpful and I am pleased that many people have them, but know that some don’t and sometimes it is not that easy, in this big country. Your family photos are heart warming.

Barb said...

Such an important post Sally. Who pushes our buttons and cares about us more than family? Your own family is so photogenic. I love the candid photos!

Chatty Crone said...

I promise without really knowing anyone personally - IT WILL BE YOUR LEGACY!

Kay said...

This post speaks so strongly to me, Sally. I have admired how you've all pulled together to help cope with your loss.

Ever since we've returned to Hawaii, we've tried to pull the extended family together. Otherwise, we only see each other at weddings and funerals. Family is so important and often times taken too much for granted. Your family is lucky to have you as a super glue that will hold everyone together long after you must leave.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Families are important and I think it's inevitable there will be some fallings out along the way; but family is usually always there for each other. Most of my family live 200 miles away but I've made a new life for myself, even though I know they will always be there.

CJ x

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Family is a thing That makes us feel a connection to a group. We struggle to live within it but that isn't always successful. And over time the whole idea of being united has taken a big cultures change. Travel and jobs have altered how we manage family life. Technology allows us to stay in touch instantly and how to sure remotely. I think it may change the way the future family will bond and hopefully for a stronger one.
Still there are family members who refuse to be in the group. It's their choice and we all have that freedom. That is a tricky one because of guilt issues we tend to create and develop.
Loved this and hope you are mending because hubby and you have had sad moments.

Jeanie said...

What a powerful, eloquent and moving post about the importance of family. I admire how you have kept family close despite change -- for there is always change. And how you have pulled together through tragedy to stay strong and supportive. I loved the photos. It was fun to see them grow -- and I know why you love that photo they all hate! I think you are all very fortunate -- when I see fractured families that don't come back together, it makes me sad. I'm so glad for yours.