Family, there are many families. Those we are born with and those we pick up along the way. I’ve managed to have a wonderful family, both immediate and extended. I just got back from seeing my cousins in Rapid City, SD – to many of my friends they ask; why South Dakota? Well, it is wonderful country, if you want to know the truth and my family happens to be some of the best people anyone could be related to – I’m proud to be part of them – ALL of them.
With my trips to that wonderful country and those fabulous people comes my thoughts of ‘what if’; what if my father had never left the area? What if, as a family, we had stayed and we kids were raised right along side my cousins? Each time I return I’m left with a bit of emptiness in my heart. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love each of my siblings, my niece and nephew. And, yes, I know that the grass can always appear greener; but they are so warm and loving, very welcoming. So much so that it makes me ‘covet’ them. I long to be a sibling… (is it even possible to covet people?)
There is so much history to be learned each time I go back. Our family is EVERYWHERE in the history books (we came over in 1634). It’s quite fascinating. And my cousin Ann is engrossed in the genealogy and slowly pulling me in with her. It does make me wonder about this wonderful history of ours and all of us who were born from it. It’s amazing when you consider what is genetic – personality for instance. I’ve noticed that there is a certain personality traits on one side of our family that is much more gregarious than the other side. It’s not like one person has this “personality trait”, most of them – if not all of them – have it. It would be more of an abnormality to not be gregarious or charismatic (incredible!). I’m a bit of an ‘oddity’ as I’m not sure I carry this gene.
I mean, when I am asked to play a role I can do it in gangbusters… But for some reason I’m unable to show that ‘genetic’ side of myself one on one, in a crowd or at a party. Did I lose out on these genes when my father decided that California was ‘the place’ to live and raise his family? I don’t know… my “North Hollywood” cousins seem to have the “genes” and they seem to have the life in spades. They know EVERYONE! They know the ‘whose who’, went to school with all the ‘whose who’ on the “list’. So what does that make us? The Pomona MacGregors? What are we? The misfits? Is this really a matter of circumstance? Or is it simply choice?
Families are funny. I spent most of my life wanting - no wishing – for that mother… the mother that was my Aunt. She spoke to me like I was an Adult. She was always interested in what it was that I was doing with my life. I was never too dumb, too stupid, too ugly; no matter what I was doing I was magnificent! To understand my love for this woman you would have to understand the trials of the girl – me… No matter what I did, no matte how fabulous I sang in choir, or in a musical, no matter how well I succeeded in the arts, it was never good enough. That little girl known as Ann, would never be good enough to gain the approval of her mother. But, when the family went to North Hollywood, she would ALWAYS, always gain the approval of her aunt. For it was her aunt who would make sure that there was a place at her breakfast table to sip Coca-Cola and talk and to tell her all about her accomplishments.
Family; they come in so many shapes and sizes. Today, I have many friends that are there – none that I could say were there like my Aunt Louise. But, they are there as close as possible. They still build me up and they believe in me even when I can’t belive in myself. These were people that pulled me out of what I refer to as my five year coma… I have a couple of friends – Kat and Den – who literally pulled me out of my grief and torment. I was surviving what Kat referred to as a war. I lost everything. I lost my sister, I lost my bother (to alcoholism) and I lost everything I owned to a fire. I was literally surviving. I was surviving a tragedy. I never thought of it that way; yet she’s right.
I just saw the doctor for some abrasions that I had on my back. The pain was severe, I felt like I had the flu and I just could not get it together. My diagnosis? Shingles! Of all things! I was on my way out of town to my favorite town to see my favorite people… and I have shingles!!!! My doctor indicated that this virus only comes out under a great deal of stress. “Have you been under stress?” To which I replied, “Me? No… psha Only for the past DECADE!” She smirked and proceeded to lecture me that this was my body’s way of telling me that it was now the time to listen to it.
I now had this virus and nothing - NO, nothing was going to keep it from me. The only way to keep myself from this was to keep myself ‘stress-free’. In a way I laughed. I thought to myself, “does she know who she is talking with?” I AM the caretaker of this family. ‘I’ am the one that the family depends on to care for our siblings. And by all bets, our brother is the next to die. He has chosen Alcoholism and is currently in what one might call “wet brain”. It’s only a matter of time.
You see, this is what I was talking about early on. We all come from a branch of the “Family” and we come from the James David’s branch. And I can’t help but feel ashamed. My sister Elizabeth has really made a wonderful name for herself… she is someone who Daddy will, is, should be proud. But I look at David… and myself. And I wonder what went wrong?
David was a prodigy, he was brilliant! He had EVERYTHING going for him and I just don’t understand what it was or why it is that he has chosen to lose his life in alcohol. Such a gift! So many gifts! He could’ve taught at the University, for crying out loud! He had a way with young people and he had a way of explaining the impossible of mathematics in terms that anyone could understand. I can understand his not wanting to pursue Concert Piano; but there were so many other gifts. (i.e writing, film making, composing… ) So many talents.
So, my question continues… what if? Would life have been different had we stayed (or gone back to) Rapid City, SD? I look at my brother and, at first, I blamed him for not being stronger. I now look at his life and admire him for all the struggles that he battled through. He was nine years old when our father died and ALL of the worlds problems (all of our mother’s problems) were placed on his shoulders. He was never allowed to be a boy.
We talk so much these days about how it takes a village to raise a child… it truly does. For you never know that child might have lost a parent due to divorce, or desertion, or death; at any rate, they lost! In the long run, they lost not just one parent, they lost both. Regardless of the loss, the remaining parent is left dealing with not just the loss and picking up the pieces of their own heart; their left filling in for that amputated limb that constituted the co-head of the family. So, why can’t we – as a community – be a family? Why is it so difficult that we can’t show compassion for those boys and girls and give them something to keep them busy after school – even if it’s in our own yards?
Family…it comes in many forms. I think that through the years it has evolved. Gone are the days where we have simply a Mom and Dad with Children… who go to church on Sunday and possibly mid-week dinner/service each week. Family has now evolved to each and every one of us. I used to feel so sorry for myself because I was not given the blessing of having a child of my own. But then I realized that I can give those same blessings that I would’ve given to my own children onto those in the community who need it.
It takes a village… it truly does. Family comes in all shapes and sizes. I’m so very proud of my family. I’m a bit perplexed at the path that some have taken and can only pray that they find their way back… but, I can move forward and continue on… helping those that want and need it. Our Family is made up of not just those who are born to us… it is of those wonderful souls who enrich our lives each and every day and who we – if we are so blessed – enrich their lives as well… Family is life and lifts us up. It truly does take a village and this is a theory none should try to escape or ignore.