Metaphorically speaking, if you opened your closet door would a skeleton or two fall out? If we’d admit the truth the answer would probably lie somewhere between “Maybe” and a tart “Who wants to know?” Dirty laundry isn’t usually a topic for dinner conversation, or any conversation, as a rule; which really isn’t a rule but more of the unspoken understanding “We don’t discuss it.”
“It” being a myriad of dynamics from Grandpa’s drinking to cousin Tommy’s drug addiction or Aunt Flo’s arrest to sister Suzy’s string of abusive relationships. All difficult life issues are understandably swept under the proverbial hush rug of secrecy. Sadly, families are torn apart every day at the advent of dysfunctional problematic behaviors or circumstances no one is willing, or too apprehensive, to bring up in conversation. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters suffer in silence as the rift of resentment and disappointment becomes a gap, which unfortunately expands into a crevasse of continued silence, which becomes a continental divide so broad some families never navigate their way back to each other.
Alas, as days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years it’s heartbreaking to measure all the unshared birthday/holiday memories and ‘firsts’ we get Kodak moment about. For instance: baby’s first steps, a lost tooth, a high school graduation, or a wedding. Those special moments are like eagerly anticipating a mouthwateringly delicious birthday cake. Then when it arrives one piece is missing. You try to stay happy, excited and focused on the cake but just like the darkened void of an absentee family member who either stubbornly refuses to attend; or isn’t invited…it isn’t the same without them because family matters.
And why it pains me so to have spoken with so many of you who endure this ‘one piece missing’ atmosphere every birthday, holiday and special family event because of someone who is never invited or won’t come. Unfortunately, other family members are so bitter they don’t want them there anyway. Or selfishly threaten to leave if ‘one piece’ makes an appearance.
Friends, your family matters and always will. Thus, my question for you (or your family) is: When did you (your family) become so perfect? We all make mistakes. We all have regrets. Don’t worry, I get it. You’re not the drug addict, you’re not the one in debt up to your eyeballs, you’ve never been in jail, you hold down a job, you’re not the one with the bad temper, you’ve been married forever and you always try to do everything right. Okay, for the sake of not arguing, I’ll play along. Then why not do the right thing now? Swallow your disapproving pride and accept everyone is different; especially whomever you’ve pushed out of the immediate family circle. Each one of us lives our own life the best way we know how. It may not be the way you are living yours but it’s the way your family member has chosen to live theirs. Accept, forgive and love them because family matters. Then forgive yourself for your stubborn pride and prejudice.
Trust me my family is no different than yours. To be bluntly honest I grew up wishing my father would fall off the face of the Earth. You know, just trip over a rock and suddenly be catapulted into outer space. (Apparently, I had a strong imagination as a child too.) Yeppers, dad simply wasn’t ‘user friendly’ when I was young. But he’s my dad, I love him and I finally realized as much as I’d wished I’d been born a Rockefeller. I wasn’t. Thus, making peace with my pride eons ago we have a great relationship today. Plus it helps that he’s living on my property now and I can ground him for a week if he gets out of line. “No senior center dance for you Saturday night Daddy-O!” (Kidding Dad! Hug, hug!)
Friends, it’s never too late to bring your family back together. In fact, in the twilight years of my parents’ lives it makes my heart smile to know fences have finally mended. Even my older brother, who didn’t leave home unscathed, came to visit last weekend. As the decades of shunned years dissolved into a new beginning mom, dad, bro and I talked, laughed and enjoyed being together for hours. My father’s and brother’s divergences have healed. My mother’s joy flowed effervescently as she witnessed them accepting each other simply for who they have become. What jubilation to appreciate forgiveness has completely conquered pride and my family is whole again.
By the way, if my dad tripped over a rock now I would hope I’m there to help him back up because…family matters.
Can you imagine…a whole birthday cake?