The Importance of Family

As a professional writer, I typically work from home.  Writing is a very solitary profession, and I find that, unless I am interviewing someone for a book or article, or visiting a specific location for research, most of my time is spent alone.  About 18 months ago, after my husband of 16 years left me very unexpectedly, I picked up and moved 1000 miles away from the only home I have ever known to begin anew, in Florida, a place where I knew no one.

Living such a solitary life, I realize over and over the importance of family.  Typically when I write about genealogy, I try to give interesting tips, or find fun facts, or teach something new to one of my readers.  Sometimes though, it is nice to simply get back to basics, and for Genealogy, that means family.

When you get right down to it, there is no bigger constant in life than family.  Family is there from the very moment you are born, and in some respect, will continue to play a role within your life, for most anyway, until the day you die. Like it or not.

When you are young, very young, you depend on your family for everything.  For food and shelter. For love, guidance, and acceptance.  Your family helps you define who you are, your place in the world. Your parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts or uncles are your very first connections in this world.  Those connections help to shape us long after we are grown, in ways we don’t really fully realize.

As we grow older, especially once we hit adolescence and beyond, family takes a back seat to friends.  In fact, I am sure that on numerous occasions during her teenage years, my daughter probably wished that me, and the rest of her family would simply disappear, at least for a little while.  At best, she hoped we would fade into the background of her life, appearing at holidays and birthday with cards and cash.  Rather than allow that to hurt my feelings, I understood it.  I too, remember what it was like to have parents when I was 16.  How embarrassing!  I often wished I had simply been hatched from an egg and left to my own devices.  My daughter, like me, and my mom before that, was simply finding her voice and her identity separate from me, her father, and the rest of her family.  At 20, she is coming to appreciate all of us in a different, more meaningful way.  A process that will continue as she grows and starts a family of her own.

I, at 44, in a new city miles from my hometown, am so grateful for the constants in my life.  My parents, my cousins, my aunts.  I have wonderful, close, amazing relationships with many of my family members, some of which are my very best friends.  Friends who have seen me through 2 divorces, the birth of my daughter, some incredible opportunities, and some devastating losses.  No matter what I am going through, my family is there, every step of the way.   Some of us fight, complain about one another, and even stop speaking for a while.  The love, however, is always there, just under the surface.  For when the chips are down, and things get tough, we are always there for each other, no matter what.

My roles within my immediate family are changing as well.  As a daughter, I have looked to my parents as protectors and guides.  Now, as time inevitably moves forward, our roles are slowly changing.  My parents aren’t as sure anymore.  As their hair turns to gray and their muscles begin to slow, they need me in new ways than before.  I am blessed to have parents that are in fine health, but still, I sometimes notice, with the passage of time, that our roles are slowly beginning to reverse.  I only hope I care for them as well as they have always cared for me.

Last week, during an impromptu visit with my daughter, after nagging her relentlessly to PLEASE RETURN HER GRANDPARENT’S PHONE CALL.  “They won’t be around forever” I heard myself saying.  As she rolled her eyes, and promised she would call, I began to talk about our family.  I spoke about the changes we have gone through over the years.  I reminded her I was also 20 once and I was nagged by my own parents to call my grandmom, until I finally relented.  A woman that I would give anything to see again, now 10 years since her passing.  I sat with my daughter and explained that no one, truly no one ever will love you like your family. They may drive you crazy, make you angry, and sometimes even break your heart.  However, when the dust settles, family are the ones who stick around until the bitter end, the ones who will hold your hand, dry your tears, and give you strength. Family is forever, and someday, this is something she will truly come to understand.

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