Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Family ties
November 22, 2017
I miss my sister. It's really that simple. It's Thanksgiving and I am missing my family. Though it would be great to see any of my siblings, I am missing one in particular.
The holidays are an opportunity to stop for a minute to be grateful for all we have in this world — just being alive, food to eat, a roof over our heads, the gift of loving and being loved.
And I, for one, am grateful for all of that and more. But I am a finding myself a little bit homesick and a wee bit nostalgic — though my memory is likely coated in rose colored glasses.
A tight knit family
On this holiday, my husband and I will travel to his sister's house to celebrate with his family, but I am missing mine. One of the things that drew me to my mate was the close relationship he seemed to have with his parents and siblings.
The four adult children and their extended families used to gather with his parents several times a year — Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas at a minimum, but they also came together occasionally for birthdays and anniversary celebrations.
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They all live within a few hours of each other, so it is fairly viable with minimal notice. I loved the closeness.
As the years have gone by, the full family gatherings are less frequent and now are missing his father who passed several years ago, but the family still manages to gather at least once or twice a year.
I am fortunate in that I love his family.
My mother-in-law, at 89, is a wonderful spirit. A devout Catholic who still lives on her own in the home in which she raised her family.
My husband and his brothers are honorable, hard-working men. His baby sister, a kindred soul. I enjoy the time we spend together. They appear to have embraced me as well.
But, sometimes, I would like to gather with mine. It would be much more difficult as my immediate family spreads literally coast to coast with me in California and my siblings in Arizona, Nebraska and New York.
And the reality is that even if we somehow managed to come together, one of us is currently not speaking to the other.
And that is how it often goes with family. Not everyone gets along all the time. Some have only their bloodline in common. Many would never be together, if not for their common lineage.
The holidays exacerbate the issues. Bringing together so many different personalities and their shared history often opening wounds that have not quite healed. And then there are those who are no longer welcome, no matter the occasion. Certainly, the holidays can be cause for pain as much as for joy.
My family is not especially close. As the youngest of seven, I watched each of my siblings move away while I was still growing up.
We keep up with each other on social media, but I confess to have let go of all but a few of my extended family members, forgotten the names of many cousins, would not recognize their spouses, do not know their children.
Sadly, we are most likely to come together when someone dies. Culturally, we are a long way away from the families who stayed together and took care of one another as was the norm not so long ago.
Trying to stay close
Our modern age has made for great migration and distance beyond physical space. And yet we continue to practice the tradition of holiday gatherings.
Gathering together in gratitude to honor our great harvest can be incredibly stressful. For some the reality is the year held more blight than bounty.
It can be a very sad time for those missing loved ones — for any number of reasons — death, distance or otherwise. But I would hope the majority of those who gather do take the time to connect, to appreciate each other, to catch up on news and to discuss the world as it is today (possibly with an agreed upon safe word).
You can't choose your family, but you can cultivate your tribe. Many people I know have chosen to create their own support system. I value my friendships and work to nurture them in a way I simply do not with my immediate clan.
Maybe we take family for granted — or the history is too painful to move beyond. We know who we can count on and while, in theory, family is supposed to be that, it is not always the case.
My sister who I am missing the most and I had a falling out about five years ago, shortly after my mother died. I was indignant. She was hurt. I have apologized. I have stated my case (which she feels negates the apology.)
I have sent notes, cards and emissaries to no avail. I am mad for the wasted time and I can only hope that we will find our way before the next gathering is for a funeral rather than a holiday.
For that I would be grateful.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.