Sunday, February 17, 2013


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.