Friday, July 20, 2018

The Ties That Bind

Photo cred: J.Hartman
Being the youngest of eight children, I have no memories of a time when any of my oldest three siblings lived at home.  My oldest brother was in college when I was born, so the two of us never even lived in the same house. My oldest sister stayed in California when the family moved away when I was three, so I have no memories of her living at home.  My brother immediately younger than her did move with us and I have vague memories of him living at home, but no concrete memories that I share with him.

It isn't until we get to sibling number four, a brother, that I have specific memories of him.  When this brother was a teenager (14 or 15, the same as age as my son is now) he was diagnosed with polyneuritis.  Polyneuritis is a crippling disease which caused my brother to be hospitalized for weeks? months?  Honestly, I am not sure how long he was in the hospital*.  I was four years old at the time and it seemed like he was hospitalized for a very long time. Anyway, I remember after he came back home he had to wear weights around his wrists and ankles in order to build back his strength.  He also had to keep Silly Putty to work his hands and fingers and help rebuild his dexterity.

Don't worry, this is not a post that has me reminiscing about each one of my brothers and sisters. However, I do want to talk family for a bit.  Family is on my mind right now because I just got home from a family reunion.  Ever since 2008 (I think), all my siblings and I have tried to get together with my mom every two years.  As many of our children that can make it come as well.  This was our first reunion since Mom passed away and that made it a bit more emotional for all of us.  However, it was good to see everyone.  All the siblings were there and many of our children and their children were there as well.

It amazes me that we all get along so well and are always genuinely happy to see each other, especially when there seems to be so many families out there who never even speak to each other.  What makes us truly enjoy each other's company?  I don't know, but I can hazard a guess.

Our parents were from a time when children worked in order to help their families buy food. My mom's family were itinerant farmers.  They would move, within northern and northeastern Arkansas, to where the work was.  Family was not just an abstract idea of blood relatives, but they were people to be relied upon. At the age of nine, my mother worked in the fields picking cotton, not because it was fun (it wasn't), but because the money she made went directly toward helping her parents and her siblings.  She was proud to pick cotton because she knew it mattered to the welfare of her family, and Mom passed this idea down to her children.

My brothers, sisters, and I all know that we can rely on each other.  Despite any philosophical, theological, or political differences, I know that if I need help I can turn to my family and they will each be there for me in whatever capacity they are able.  If the zombie apocalypse hits, I know my siblings and I would watch out for each other and we would reach out to each other, making sure everyone was okay.

The cool thing is, this has now been passed down to the next generation.  My children and their cousins, while not close to each other, know they are family.  When push comes to shove, we all know that the nieces, nephews, and their spouses are available for back-up now as well. My grown nephews and nieces (and their spouses) have been gifted with a large family who loves them and who they love right back.

There is a hymn, Blest Be the Tie That Binds, I grew up singing which speaks to the special connection between Christians.  However, my mother and father helped each of us to see how strong a tie there is that binds us as an earthly family as well.

*I have since been informed that my brother was in the hospital for two and a half months.