Family. We all have them of one sort or another. Scattered. Close. Dysfunctional. Working. Big. Small. All shapes and sizes. Love. Hate. And everything in between.
This almost 3 1/2 years of traveling as Happily Homeless has been, for me, about family. Discovering it. Tracking it down. Reconnecting with it. Finding roots in a way I’ve never had. Realizing that keeping it can take effort and time. Which is not a bad thing. How can any relationship be sustained if there is no effort? A realization that isn’t new on my part, but definitely a new perception of it as we’ve traveled.
So, my family. I grew up in a family of eight kids. Twenty years between the youngest and the oldest. Five boys. Three girls. I’m the youngest of the older four. The middle sister. My dad had a brother and a sister. There are two cousins from them. My mom had two brothers. Her brother Les was born on her birthday seven years apart. He and his wife Linda had two kids. Numbers and more numbers.
My siblings and I grew up and scattered to live our lives. Married. Children. Divorced. Our family has never been easy. We had our own way of keeping the “fun” in dysfunctional. There were issues, but sometimes its been nothing more than time and distance keeping us apart, and not paying attention to the relationships.
This underlying theme of my years of travel has been about re-establishing and reconnecting with my immediate and extended family. I have an overwhelming curiosity about my parents (who divorced), my sibs individual relationships with them, who my parents were as young adults, the relationships they had with their own siblings. You know-everything! And so I’ve sought out relatives as we’ve traveled, and I’ve grown my tribe. I’ve met relatives I never thought I’d meet!
California: my Aunt Linda, whom I’d met twice in my life. I went and visited her and she gave me a big box of family papers left to me by my Uncle Les. During my visit with her I met her son, my cousin Kevin. I really liked him. There was a strong family resemblance to my mom, who was an intellectual, same as him. And I was so glad I stopped to visit Aunt Linda. She died not a year later in a fall.
Northern California: my cousin Laura, Aunt Linda’s daughter. I need to get in touch with her again. I want to know her better. Also in northern CA, I met Laura’s daughter Jessica. What is that relationship-cousin once removed? Not sure. But Jessica had a daughter of her own. Need to contact her too.
Connecticut: my cousin Sam and his wife, Jean, and their son, Jon. I was able to take our son, Fireman Nick, who also lives in that state, over to meet them. I wanted him to know them, and know that he has family nearby.
Maine again: I spent time with one of my older brother’s, David, and his wife Linda. David has that kind of humor where he says something funny, but he’s kind of non dramatic about it and a minute later you realize what he said and you kill yourself laughing. He and I spent time perusing family geneology. My older sister Catharine came to visit while I was there. She and I have come a long way in building a friendship and I so cherish that!
Colorado: my dad. I’ve loved spending more time here with him. Today Handsome Husband and I went up to Estes Park to meet up with my oldest brother Ken. I haven’t seen him in 7 years. Not for any particular reason. Just life, and our lives are different, so we didn’t. But I’m going to stay in touch with him from now on. And I hope he feels the same. He reads my blog so he’ll see this (Hi Ken! We had such a great time hanging out with you today!)
Tomorrow, my youngest brother Joseph is coming up to Loveland with his two boys, my nephews, Finn and Arden. I last saw Arden when he was maybe a year or so old. Finn was a couple months old. Presumably he’s taller now. My kids and I, who always make up nicknames for people, and combine names (how Hollywood of us!) call them FinnArden. Lovingly, of course. Joseph’s girlfriend, Tammy, will be with him, so I’ll meet her for the first time. Joseph and I have spoken on the phone for the first time in these last couple days. We’ve laughed a lot. I’m going to really like connecting with him again. And we’re going to stay connected, and I’m going to be present in his kids’ lives, even if its through the mail, and the internet.
It has taken me out of my comfort zone, reaching out to family. How odd to say that. But we haven’t been connected and I got out of the habit of reaching out, and nurturing the relationships. I’m very glad I took that breath and picked up the phone. It was worth it for me. It is worth it to me. It doesn’t always work when we reach out to others. But sometimes it does. And dear readers, it is priceless and heart-warming, and an altogether lovely feeling when it does. Life is good.