You never really know when a thing is missing if it has never been there. Most kids, like myself, who were driven around in mini-vans never thought about being driven around in Escalades, or X5’s because they weren’t part of our existence. I’ve heard a story, perhaps nothing more than an old wives tale, about the first ships to sail to America. The Indians supposedly stood on the water for days trying to figure out why the waves were coming differently than usual. It took them a week to see the boats, even though those boats were visible from day one, or maybe three, just because it is impossible to see something you didn’t realize exists. I knew, deep in my heart, healthy families exist all over this world, but for some reason I never equated mine as such. Before 13, yes, big extended family get-togethers, fun for all, but after 13, silence. Deafening silence.
I spent the weekend with Mr. Man and his lovely family up in San Luis Obispo. I met Uncles and Aunts, Mom and Pops, even Grandma and a few cousins. From the very oldest, to the very youngest, this family was welcoming, warm, open and friendly. To the point where I felt comfortable enough to curl up in a chair and pass out, the ladies took a massage retreat on Saturday while the men golfed and the rub left me plum tuckered. It was interesting to watch the family dynamic. The beautiful harmony and tenths of seconds that blended right back into harmony and love. This is the first time I’ve met my boyfriends parents and didn’t have a single thing to lie about. The first time with no secrets. The first time with no concocted story to uphold, no fibs to trip over, no…. fake bullshit excuse for being exactly who I am. “And acceptance is the key to all our problems…”
I never really understood during those years of self imposed exile from my father and his side of the family, just what I was cutting from my life. Mornings with my Aunt. Evenings with Uncles who make me laugh. Cousins growing up from toddlers to beautiful young women or happy and excited fathers. When Mr. Man and I went down to visit my family a few months ago, the first time I’ve introduced any man (ANY MAN) to my dad, it was to celebrate my cousins brand new son and his arrival home from the hospital. Ryder, (his beautiful baby boy) had been born way too early, I think 16 weeks, and calling him a million dollar baby would be a gross underestimate. The party was at my cousin’s fiance’s house, and it was mostly his friends and her family. It wasn’t enough to make me understand just what I’d missed in the past 13 now 14 years. 13 14 years. That’s quite a bit of time.
I’d already had sex by 13.
Already smoked weed by 13.
Loved cigarettes by 13 (yes, still smoke free although slightly insane…).
Already knew what “life was about” at 13.
Wanted nothing to do with anybody that loved me by 14.
It’s amazing what you can learn a quarter way through your life. Heck, maybe this is the end? Maybe just the beginning? Maybe I shouldn’t being putting a time restraint or any sort of measuring device against my years, begging it to be true or proved terribly false. It’s amazing what you can learn spending a weekend with the family of someone you love. And someone who loves you.
People can grow old together, and still have things to talk about.
People can act like kids, and swear like teenagers, no matter what age.
People can open their arms to you, and know nothing about you aside from a name and the way you make someone else feel.
People can stay together, learn together, love together, and not be afraid to die together.
I’ve moved around so much in my life, it’s hard to imagine I could ever return to a town, find my pictures hanging on the wall, find someone I know working behind a grill, and find an alley filled with gum from generations past. It’s hard to imagine I can build relationships that survive moves, fights, years and tears. It’s hard to imagine that someone, even though he loves me today, could love me thirty or forty years down the line, and we could heckle each other as we did when we first met. It’s hard to imagine a spark that doesn’t fade out.
Spending the weekend with his family was such a blessing, to be included in such a tight family, introduced to such strong women, such stubbornly hilarious men, to see where Mr. Man’s compassionate and loving nature originated. And to see where it started in them.
I can’t wait for my next family reunion. I think understanding how special a family really is will help me to enjoy the wonderful people that are a part of mine.