Wednesday, December 01, 2010
We have finally managed to computerize family.
In the meantime, we have found relationships very much like a family in other places. Most people spend more time with the folks they work with than they do with the people they live with. The work place offers the same dynamics as a family: you work on some sort of common goal akin to keeping the family farm afloat. You have different personalities mixed together who, of necessity, must learn how to live with each other.
One of my daughters’ co-workers joined us for a couple of days during the holiday and we enjoyed having her. She had certainly been vetted more carefully than biology does. Lord, when you give birth to someone you have absolutely no control over who you end up with. Emily, on the other hand, has a great deal of control of who she invites to our family gathering. And Cosalind fit right in as part of our family.
I learned a long time ago that you don’t have to be related to folks to make a family. My father was widowed when I was 14 and he remarried a couple of years later. I gained two brothers in the deal. After Daddy died, my stepmother married Terry who brought three more brothers, including a second one named Don. (Yes, I can say “This is my brother Don and this is my other brother Don.”) By the time my stepmother died and Terry remarried I gave up counting brothers. I was just glad none of them were named Don. And I’m proud I can keep Betty straight: She is my father’s second wife’s third husband’s third wife. And we’re a family.
A friend I made during the Katrina rebuilding called me on Thanksgiving to wish me love. Another one called the day after. Likewise, I read on Facebook from a fellow volunteer that she had received a phone call from Miss Kitty, whom she met when she helped re-build Miss Kitty’s house. That hurricane did some horrible damage but she brought people into each other’s lives in a way nothing else could have done. No other way would I have had a reason to live in one small town in Mississippi for four months and develop the family I had there: Brother Wilf, Sister Jan and so many others. I remember sweltering hot afternoons working so close our sweat would drip on the other’s arms. We were working for a common goal, working from a common love. We were a family.
My church congregation has long been more of a family to me than sometimes my biological one. How many families see each other at least once a week every single week? And that's not even counting the weddings and funerals.
We started having Womens Retreats about 15 years ago and about the third year the theme was “Sisters in Christ”. From that point on we began referring to each other as “Sister So and So.” I started understanding this term during my annual trips to Guatemala where everyone is called “hermano” or “hermana”, Spanish for brother or sister. And most of the time we’ll just call them by that term without any other name behind it as in “Gracias, hermana.”
The one constant I’m finding in relationships is that a relationship is always under construction. It’s always moving in one direction or the other. You may be born as someone’s sister but things have a way of changing, moving around, growing. Sisters grow into friends. Friends grow into sisters. Facebook becomes a family.