Wednesday, February 11, 2004


When my stepdaughter Lisa was younger she would sometimes chastise us to spend time together as family, and whenever she said the word, "family" she would gesture with her hands, carefully tracing a heart shape in the air that was completed when the tips of her fingers touched at what would be the heart's bottom.

I am in love with Amy for any number of reasons, but one of the perks of being in love with her is that I also get to love her side of the family.

We travel to Ohio each summer to spend time with the whole passel of relations: Amy's folks, her brother Mike, his wife Terry. Amy's sister, Lisa and her husband Michael "Wayne". All their kids. All our kids. It's a great thing.

I didn't grow up with family. My parents died when I was young, my brothers and I have never been especially close. I have an Aunt whom I adore, but cousins are out of the picture...or in asylums.

Once, many years ago, while driving back from Ohio with the kids, I halted the conversation because it had started to drift into nit picking about family. I felt compelled to emphasize what a precious thing our children enjoy. It may be hard to believe considering the vast wisdom I spout here so often, but I rarely imposed my grand thoughts on our kids when they were little...this time was an exception.

I knew it was important.

I believe each of our kids can still remember that conversation, at least as well as the first time I inadvertently uttered the word, "Hell" in exasperation (that's a story for another blog).

What our children had then, and still have today, is such a treasure that I wanted to make sure they didn't overlook or underestimate it. They have relatives who love and cherish them, not only parents, but grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. But they're not simply relatives...these are people with whom they have relationships!

I don't know how to put a value on honesty I don't think you can.

Mike and Terry went back to Ohio yesterday after an all too short visit which was wondrous in many ways, not the least of which was how comfortable it felt. I know their visit helped Amy immeasurably. I know it also helped me more than I can adequately express.

Tomorrow, Amy's sister Lisa arrives. She too will be welcomed easily...because she is family, and we are completed by each other.

Family life is full of major and minor crises -- the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce -- and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It's difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul- Thomas Moore.