Yesterday my cousin, Lori, posted the following quote on Facebook:
And proceeded to tag most us. (I say most…there were nearly 30+ first and second cousins just on our side of the family so I’m not sure she got us all and I think she included her mother’s side of the family too.) What ensued was a day full of bantering with cousins I haven’t literally seen in over a decade (or two) and laughter from memories long forgotten.
We have a rather large family. If I am to mention only of the McGraw side it is a small community all on its own and for many years, which I’ll refer to as the ‘golden years’, we ran as such. Our own community. Sweetgraw & Papa were the matriarchs (founding fathers, mayors, dictators,…I’m sure varying generations of my cousins would have their own input as to how they might title our grandparents) and from there trickled down the roles of our own family democracy (including a town loon!… If my cousins are reading this can you guess who? (I’m sure some might say which…but let’s be honest, every McGraw has a touch of ‘crazy’ in them.)
We were so large a family that it was my second cousin, Jonathan, only three months my junior, who was my best bud. We spent a lot of time together and as we grew older we got in a lot of trouble together. (I supposed now that sweet Uncle Garnet has passed we can talk about the barn incident? …oh never mind…)
I spent the entire day smiling, laughing, going back to Facebook at any chance I had to continue to see the thread of comments and memories. My cousins were my refuge and security in so many ways. They were the only ones who could understand our ‘crazy’ family and there was no way we could judge the other because unfortunately it was in our blood too.
I traveled to see my cousins. I experienced my first concert (Def Leppard – rock on!) with my cousins. They gave me my first lesson on hiding a hickey (yes, God bless my soul I made mistakes, lol) and when I came home from college and ‘exposed’ the fact I had been raped they gathered around me on our backyard lawn to comfort, console, and ask me how they could find him to make him pay. (That’s right…I said we were a ‘community’…beware…)
Good memories of my past were mostly spent with my cousins. It pains me to know that I have many cousins I have not spoken to or seen in nearly twenty years. It pains me more to know my sons will not have the same comfort of a large family as I did growing up. They do not know these cousins or their children. When Papa passed the ‘community’ began to crumble and when Sweetgraw passed it seemed it disappeared all together.
There are the few of us that try. And maybe one day we’ll get that big McGraw family reunion to unite us all together again but the fact remains, times are different. Life happens. Divorces happen. Addictions ensnare. Skeletons emerge from closets and people’s opinions become louder than their love.
I will be the first to admit I let the ties loose. I didn’t cut them all the way but there was so much going on in my own life I couldn’t keep up with the ins & outs of another, let alone the multitude.
Yesterday awoke my heart to the bond we created decades ago and made me tug on the strings a little tighter, drawing them in a little closer. There are many reasons why we might lose the tie to family and sometimes they are valid in our personal survival. But if you’ve lost touch with family simply because ‘life happened’ possibly reconsider being the first to ‘reach out’.