Monday, January 24, 2011

The Blessing of Family

Family has always been important to me.  And that's one of the (many) things that attracted me to Matt - his famly is very important to him.  Once we started planning our wedding, it became even more obvious to us that family is extremely important to both of us.  I mean, we'd always known that.  In fact, our biggest fights have been about holidays and where to spend them because neither of us wanted to give up our family time.  I think we've got a pretty good system down (for now, pre-baby) but it took a while to get there.  Since the wedding, though, it's become glaringly obvious that our families are very very different in how they support each other. 

When we first started talking about readers, we agreed on three readings.  And we thought we'd have someone from my side, someone from his side, and then a "mutual" person (my brother-in-law, Anthony, who is also good friends with Matt).  Matt thought about which cousin he wanted to ask for his side, but I knew immediately who I would ask.  I have always looked up to and admired my cousin, so there was no doubt that I would ask her.  But when I called her, she declined because she didn't want to have to leave her kids at home.  Even after I offered to hire a babysitter for her.  I was heartbroken, but forged ahead and ended up asking Matt's cousin's wife, with whom I've grown very close.  [We're both social workers.  It was an immediate bond]  After the wedding, I didn't hear anything from my cousin.  Not a call, not a card...not even a facebook message.  That was rough.  I mean, we'd asked her to do a reading, which clearly meant that I thought she was important part of my family, of my life.  The idea that she couldn't be bothered just....well, it sucked.

Last weekend, Matt's Pop Lou passed away.  He'd been sick for a while, and his body just finally gave up.  He was able to make it to the wedding, and I know that Matt is really happy about that.  While the funeral was, of course, sad, it also really spoke to me about the strength of family.  Matt's cousins and aunts and uncles have always been close.  They all grew up together and have been not just cousins but friends for their entire lives.  And on the day of Pop's funeral, they rallied around and supported each other.  It was beautiful.  It really made me realize how important it is to have famly around.  I didn't have that growing up, and seeing Matt's family like that...I'll be honest, I get a little jealous.  I'm jealous that they all know each other so well.  That they all constantly know what's happening in each other's lives.  I'm jealous that they share so many memories from childhood. 

As I sat there listening to the eulogy that Matt's brother gave, and listening to all the cousins exchanging stories, I started to wonder if me or any of my cousins could do the same at my grandfather's funeral.  Morbid thought, I know.  But the conclusion I came to is that, no, we couldn't.  I barely know my extended family.  At this point, I think it's pretty safe to say I know Matt's family better than my own.  I see my cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandfather once every other year at Thanksgiving.  It's been that way for 10 years.  Before that, we went out to Michigan every year.  Instead of getting closer, with all the technology and social networking available to us, we're drifting further apart.  And that's just one "set" of cousins.  I haven't seen my other cousins (on my mom's side) in probably 10 years.  And my cousins on my dad's side?  I've seen them 3 times.  In my entire life. 

That makes me sad.  But I'm lucky that I married into such an amazing family.  And they have all accepted me into the fold and made me feel like I belong there.  So while I don't have my own family to lean on, I have a new family to lean on.  And that's pretty freaking great. 

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