Opinion

The importance of family

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Back in the day when I was trying to come up with a name for my column, I took a hard look at what topics I typically wrote about.

Those topics were things of extreme importance to me: Faith, family and fun – and pretty much in that order. As a new parent, I tended to write more about family than anything else. A lot of my faith columns were censored because many editors and publishers don’t want their writers talking openly about religion. As the years passed, I’ve been herded in a direction to write more about current topics and events.

But this week I want to talk about family. I’ve been pretty immersed in family matters the past two weeks. As I write this, I’m in Kerrville for the weekend visiting my in-laws and my wife’s sister and her two children who are visiting from Virginia.

My parents and my two brothers came from Colorado to visit for a few days two weeks ago. I didn’t realize just how positive an effect that would have on me. Spending time with them filled a void in my heart I didn’t know I had.

Having moved 1,000 miles from home 15 years ago, it has been very difficult keeping up with my family of origin. I love my brothers, Don and Chip, but as adults we were never as close as brothers should be. We each had very different and very busy lives.

In the end, however, those are just excuses for not staying in touch. I would see them for the occasional Christmas or summer vacation, but even then, only for a couple hours or so. This is the first time that either of them has come down here to visit me. We got some quality time together. A lot has changed for us, especially in the last six years. Our mother passed away in 2014 and Dad remarried a year and a half later (note to self: Send anniversary card).

Two years ago, Dad went through a tough battle with cancer. The loss of one parent and the very real possibility of losing another was a wake-up call. My brothers and I realized that we needed to have a close relationship with each other if our family was going to survive the inevitable passing of our parents. I’m happy to say that Dad made a stellar recovery and looks to have many great years ahead of him.

I’ve always had a good relationship with Dad, as I do now with my new Mom, Barbara. I’m now getting to know my brothers in a new light. They’re not the snot-nosed tagalongs I was always trying to ditch when I wanted to play with my friends. Nor are they the little snitches who kept telling on me (and I, in turn, on them). It’s been many years since we last chased one another through the house with steak knives, shot at each other with BB guns, or teased each other for liking a certain girl.

We’re in our 50s now. Don is a confirmed bachelor and Chip is married with two grown children. I never really knew my niece and nephew and my brothers never got to see my four kids grow up. That’s the way it was for the three of us and our 30-plus cousins. Dad was one of 10 children and moved from California to Colorado where he met and married Mom. She came from Nebraska, where my uncle and one of three cousins on that side still live.

With the exception of Mom’s funeral and postings on Facebook, I have not seen any of my cousins in at least 20 years. As much as my dad’s side of the family continues to grow, it is also shrinking. He has lost all but three siblings. Numerous cousins have passed away over the years, and there are some I’m pretty sure I’ve never met.

So what does all of this have to do with anything? It’s a reminder that life is short and people are important. Family is especially important, even at long distances. That’s something my family should be good at by now. My great-great-grandfather left Virginia for Arkansas. My grandfather left Arkansas for California, my father California for Colorado, me Colorado for Texas, and my oldest son Texas for Florida.

With technology today there is no reason we can’t do a better job of staying in touch. That’s what families do, isn’t it? My brothers and I may have missed out on the middle years of our lives, but that’s all changing.

What about you? Is there someone in your life that you need to reestablish or strengthen a relationship with? If there is, don’t hesitate. Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. All we have is today, so make the most of it. Reach out and touch someone before it’s too late.

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