The word “family” can evoke a spectrum of emotions. For many, family means intimacy and love, hugs and kisses. For others it means consistency and routine, the “same old , same old.” For others, family means animosity and detachment, arguments and conflict. Though we live in a society that declares the intrinsic value of family, we are not always sure how that is lived in our own lives.
I am the second of five children. My parents moved from Minnesota to Washington State when I was a year old. Our family had no close relatives within five hundred miles for the first ten years of my life. Our family holidays were simply mom, dad and my four siblings. We had some good neighbors and church friends but they were not true “family.”
My childhood memories are a mixed bag. I remember many wonderful meals at holidays and camping trips to the ocean. Dad coached my soft-ball team and mom came to my grade school basketball games and school plays. We attended church together and prepared for Christmas with family advent candle devotions.
I also remember “running away” from home because I did not get my way. Mom even helped me pack a snack for my small bicycle. I pedaled down the street, only to return by 4PM so I could watch my favorite childhood TV show. I probably caused more trouble at home than any of my siblings, creating fights and arguments over trivial matters. After college, I married and moved back to Minnesota to attend seminary. Like my parent before me, I was a thousand miles from any “family” except for my wife and three children.
This week my childhood “family” is reunited. My brother from Atlanta, my sister and brother from the Seattle area and my sister from Kodiak Island, Alaska are visiting Minnesota to celebrate my mother’s 87th birthday. She moved back to Minnesota a couple of years ago due to her increasing dementia; her recent falls now means she is in a skilled nursing care facility near my church. Prior to their coming, I wondered how my siblings and I would interact without the “social lubricant” of children or vacation activities that normally fill our brief times together. What would we do when mom was napping or asleep?
I have been pleasantly surprised at how we quickly we have become “family” again. We listen as we talk around the dinner table, laugh as we play a board game together, cheer for the Seattle Seahawks football team, and enjoy the latest James Bond movie. We are discussing how best to handle mom’s future and preparing to enter new stages of life as grandparents or retirees. I have not felt any need to “run away” during their visit. After all we are family.
What does family mean for you?
Lord Jesus, continue to teach me how to love those closest to me.