BY MICHAEL REISIG –
Family – it’s an integral part of nature. It is the unerring cohesiveness that nurtures development and, without question, promotes survival. But for human beings, with our heightened sense of intellect and levels of emotion, it is something deeper and more profound.
I have read that happiness is only genuine when shared, and while I’m probably a more singular/independent type of fellow than most, I believe there is truth to that, or perhaps happiness is magnified, expanded, when it is collective.
Nonetheless I don’t believe all our family in this life is sprung from the loins of relatives. Sometimes they are made in the heart – we discover individuals with whom we have enormous bonds external of blood. But it is still kin that we most often turn to in challenging times – the ones who stand by you without flinching. It’s mothers who somehow remember how it feels to be young and stupid, and they forgive. It’s fathers who impart small wisdoms in life that seem to mean little at the time, but the power of the images grow stronger with the years, and later, much later, you remember where they came from and when they were imparted, and they become tiny jewels, intravenous insights. Brothers and sisters may start out as competitors, or just appear purely irritating, but time has a way of rounding the edges of old disputes, and it is such a rewarding feeling to discover a friend in later years who had simply been a relative before. It’s often the same with children and parents – youth is so impetuous – it takes us a while to gain the perspective of our parents, and suddenly one day you’re taken aback when you find yourself imitating them as you speak with your own offspring. But there’s a space in between being a child and being a parent that is best described by the novelist Chuck Palahniuk: “Parents are like God, because you want to know they’re out there, and you want them to think well of you, but you really only call when you need something.”
Regardless of how tempting it is at times, few people give up on family, because it is not just an institution, but an eternal euphemism for succor, protection, and peace, and a strange sense of belonging that’s just so difficult to find these days. Family wraps its arms around you in times of despair, they listen on the phone when there are other things they need to be doing, they send money, and sometimes they send hope. It’s all a part of this remarkable consortium we call family.
I’ll leave you with a little lightness by the comic, George Burns, who said; “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”