“What was I thinking?” may be what I ask myself after this Friday’s Aging GreatFULLy show! As a radio show host I work tirelessly to book incredible guests with resonating messages that can enhance and enrich the lives of my global audience. I never dreamed the show would grow in popularity and subscribership volume and it warms my heart that people welcome and desire my weekly message.
Aging GreatFULLy in and of itself encompasses many ideals—including family. So why not share mine? HAVE YOU MET THEM!? But hey, you only live once and it sounded like a great idea when I conceived it! I did consider changing the iTunes ratings from “E for Everyone” or “F for Family” to…I don’t know…“Explicit, Dysfunctional…DISASTER” perhaps! But I am all about faith in a higher court so I am going to just let it all play out and put it out there—my family and all! (If you’re curious as to how this actually unfolds, you can catch the podcast on iTunes after it airs on 10/14 here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/aging-greatfully-gerontologist/id1143824637?mt=2)
You see, we’re not normal—I mean we ARE NOT NORMAL! But then I started thinking, “Is any family NORMAL?” Probably not. We are kind of like a trifecta version of the “Dynamic Duo,” … I would say we're the “Tremendous Trio” of sorts. I didn’t pick “terrific” because tremendous is more far reaching to accommodate all of our unusual qualities—and they are not all terrific I might add…but they are US.
We are a story. As each of you are. Ours is a journey of togetherness. A mom that loved deeply (and lost—or was left—is more accurate of a description!) and was left to raise us in “tremendously” unideal circumstances and did one “tremendous” job. A brother that was a “tremendous” pain in the rear as a brother should be and I was the equally “tremendously” pain in the sass sister, making me perfectly normal. But what is important is when it mattered, we showed in stellar fashion for one another. It was always the three of us. Whoever came. Whoever left. The Tremendous Trio was left intact, unfaltered, unwavered—stronger than super glue, larger than life. This bond was something I could always count on and a safe haven I am so grateful to have.
My brother may have done many things that caused colossal childhood wars. But it was an immediate peace treaty when I was three years old on the night we sat on the top stair and watched our daddy walk out the door as we hugged our crying mother while she pleaded for him not to leave. In all of the feuds before and after, in that moment, my older six-year old brother looked me in the eyes, put his arms around me and said, “Look, chin up…stop crying. Mom needs us and we are going to be just fine. It’s okay. We’re okay as long as we’re together. We’re going to be okay.” And we were—as a matter of fact, eventually, okay.
Am I sharing the time he and our best friend, Timothy tried to blow me up with a Cherry bomb? Or when they tried to mow me over with a 60’ CB antennae? Or the countless many other catastrophes that were fun to them and I would describe as a near death experience? No, because while laughable now—in the end, I’m in gratitude of the imperative times he rose, elevated—hugged me.
I remember when I was ten years old hearing my mother scream in the middle of the night. I laid in bed paralyzed. I knew what her shrill meant. I wasn’t ready to be mobile yet and face the reality. I just laid there. When I heard my brother walk by my door I followed him downstairs. That was the strength I needed to face what followed. His strength. Our stepdad had been battling cancer for well over a year and we had been caring for him in our home. The battle had finally been lost on that night. And once again he looked at me and put his hands on my shoulders and said, “It’s okay. We’re going to be okay. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. I love you. We’re all going to be alright.” And we were okay, eventually.
We fought like crazy. He could be mean, even an ass when he felt so compelled. I could be awful too. But in the end, we knew how to love. We knew how to step up and support each other in the most trying times. But somehow in our youth, despite all of that fighting—he knew how to be a big brother when I NEEDED him to be. That’s what I always loved about him.
No, family doesn’t have to be blood related or a piece of paper that says you are legally connected. I am not one that buys into the verbatim and exact definition of family; “A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household...A group of people related to one another by blood or marriage.” Let it be known that I believe your family just has to be “your people.” And, well—these two are some of mine.
Life wasn’t always easy—but it was always good—and full of love. It was always moving in the right direction and it was always founded on the right stuff—respect, positive intention, and giving each other a good old-fashioned reality check if and when needed. Perfection is overrated. We laugh, we swear, we argue, and we make amends—but we also know how to spread joy and filter unwavering love to our own kids. This is who we are and this is what we do. And this matrix of experiences and realities is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I guess the moral of the story here is cherish your family uniqueness and dysfunction. Treasure your family’s peculiarities, embrace the eccentricities, love, laugh and live as abundantly as possible. And if you haven’t reached out recently, the holidays are coming up so take the time to plan something special with loved ones. After all, there’s no one like family and while you can pick your friends…your family is yours for life!
For me, I have always said my entire life that “My mother has been my rock.” But now several decades later I look back on my life archive and watch the cognitive movie reels play and I see it crystal clear. When she couldn’t be the rock—when life had robbed her and depleted her of her maternal and bountiful resources—my brother stepped in and up. That little man, at the age of 6 took charge and carried the strength for us all. And again at the age of 13. And countless times since then. So I amend my former statement and say that “THEY have been my rock.” And what am I to them? Well, that’s a question better suited for them to answer. But I hope I’m a contributing, equalizing component to this crazy, dysfunctional, and wonderful Tremendous Trio!