I begin this post with my favorite quote from Sex and the City ~
"The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don't, but in the end they're the people you always come home to. Sometimes it's the family you're born into and sometimes it's the one you make for yourself."
It's funny how I spent probably the first 20 years of my adult life blissfully taking my family for granted. Every other year, we took these family vacations to some adventure-filled summer destination. The Adirondacks, the Outer Banks..... these trips started when my daughter was in diapers and she was in the eighth grade when we took our last. They were full of kids bickering and adults arguing the merits of eating out versus doing the Betty Crocker routine - just imagine which side of that debate I was on.... My husband always swore that my brother's father-in-law over charged us on our portion of the vacation rental , and the last Outer Banks trip involved me sleeping in a nook by a window because too many people jumped into the fray and we ran out of bedrooms. But they were also full of campfire stories, bear and deer sitings and fireworks on the beach. What I wouldn't give to have one of those trips back - but do-overs are the things that dreams are made of, after all.
Now Bill and I wait poised to enter the next phase of our family with us in the roles of matriarch and patriarch. Lately, I've actually caught myself daydreaming about my daughter's someday wedding. In the meantime, I want to tell young families to savor every minute of their magical journey. I want to tell families in turmoil to fight for each other and fight to save what they have. In the darkest hours, it seems as though nothing will ever be right again and it feels as though people who we thought we knew better than anyone have turned into angry strangers. Feelings of betrayal and angry words cloud our days. How many families have their own private civil war raging unchecked and unnoticed by the outside world? Too often, substance abuse is part of the equation. From the alcoholism in my husband's family to my oldest brother's addiction to painkillers, it is the curse that can turn advocates into adversaries faster than one can say "just say no". To me, as the innocent sibling or child trying to cope with the abuser, the biggest most overwhelming feeling is one of betrayal. How dare this person introduce this poison environment into my family....
In the case of my father-in-law, i was continually amazed at his total disregard for his loves ones. I was constantly bearing witness to his behavior and thinking- "how can you look yourself in the mirror and justify this behavior, day in and day out?", and now ultimately, the demon alcohol has robbed him of his mind, and he lays awaiting death. People like my brother, though, they are the ones that I want to take with both hands and shake. He had a great job, two young boys, a wife who- while admittedly I'll say she was a tad bit self-centered - was still a pleasant and charming person who earned a decent wage as a music teacher. What causes someone like my brother, with this solid life, to become so addicted to painkillers that he puts the family into bankruptcy and forges his wife's signature in order to drain her retirement account? He left Connecticut with his proverbial tail between his legs and landed in Buffalo, much to the chagrin of us - his weary and wary siblings. After four l-o-n-g years, I don't know where he is or what's become of him. Suffice to say that he is not the best friend of the Blasdell police. And whenever I think of him, I just wonder what kind of power these substances have over people that they would choose to turn their backs on the people who love them the most? I feel fortunate that I do not understand it and I hope that I never do.
Sunrise. The mystery and beauty of the family unit is that no matter how screwed up it can seem, no matter how many tears have been shed, it always finds a way to reincarnate itself. All families live through tumultuous times. When there is real love and devotion, we can emerge on the other side, not unscathed, not without the occasional residual tear - but wiser and with a better appreciation for the good times. While the clock can never be turned back, it can be adjusted and reworked, re tuned and refinished. Don't get too cozy with that refurbished clock, and always remember that even the most well-made timepiece requires maintenance and occasional TLC. If we are lucky, we can come full circle back to those family vacation days with ourselves cast in different but equally important roles. Cherished children beget cherished grandchildren. Bill and I are in what I like to think of as "transition mode". We don't have a clue where our immediate family unit is headed right now. Who' knows - there may be more darkness waiting around the corner. What I do know is that there is love here, and there is goodness. As long as there is love and goodness, the beauty will come in its own good time, and the darkness can be overcome.